Q: Is it okay to eat the avocado seed (“pit”)? I heard it’s nutritious and healthful.
A: Like most seeds, they are a concentrated source of nutrients, fiber, and a variety of antioxidants. But we don’t recommend eating avocado seeds (also called “pits”), largely because there has been little research on their safety. Until recently hardly anyone ate them. That may have changed, however, thanks to a video on Facebook that went viral, with more than 27 million views since March. It shows how to peel, chop, and pulverize the seed so that it can be added to smoothies and baked goods. Suddenly, avocado has become the latest “super seed.”
The use of avocado seeds (or extracts of them) for medicinal purposes goes back to ancient times. In parts of southern Mexico and Central America, where the avocado plant is believed to have originated, they were reportedly used as traditional treatments (consumed by mouth or applied topically) for many conditions, from constipation and diarrhea (yes, both) to arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions, and toothaches (placed into a tooth cavity).
Test-tube and animal studies show that avocado seed extract has antifungal, skin-regenerating, cholesterol-lowering, and other potentially beneficial properties—like so many plant-derived compounds or foods do. But there are no human studies showing clinical benefits.
As for safety, occasionally eating small amounts of the seeds is probably fine, but consuming larger amounts regularly is an open question. A mouse study in Scientific World Journal in 2013, for instance, found that high doses of avocado seed extract were toxic to the animals but didn’t cause genetic damage.
Keep in mind that not all seeds are safe to eat. Apricot and peach seeds, for instance, contain amygdalin, which contains cyanide. Still, you’d have to break open the seeds (otherwise they’d just pass through your digestive tract intact) and eat an awful lot of them to get sick.
Bottom line: Stick with the avocado pulp. Even the California Avocado Board doesn’t recommend eating the seed, saying that it “contains elements that are not intended for human consumption.” Reserve the seeds for growing new avocado plants.
Also see The Amazing Avocado.