Super Food: Avocado

What are bright green, silky smooth, and in some regions is known as the alligator pear?

Avocados, of course! These delicious spherical fruits originated in Central and South America, particularly in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Their smooth creamy texture and subtle flavor is what fuels the popularity of avocados, heightened by the fact that they provide the body with a large list of nutritional benefits. It is not surprising that this velvety and satisfying fruit is known as the “butter fruit” in parts of India. But keep in mind that avocados differ from butter, as avocados offer healthy mono-unsaturated fats and an array of antioxidants!

There are hundreds of varieties of avocados, with Hass avocados being the most common. The avocado plant requires a subtropical environment to grow, without risk of exposure to frost or wind. Interestingly enough, the avocado shares a common quality with tomatoes and bananas. They all fall within the category of “climacteric fruit,” meaning that maturation will generally take place on the tree, and after the fruit has been harvested it will finish its ripening process at room temperature.

Why Is the Avocado Healthy?

Cardiovascular Benefits

High concentrations of carotenoids and the lipophilic antioxidant capacity of avocados may help reduce lipid peroxidation in the blood: reducing vascular damage and bad cholesterol build up, in turn decreasing the narrowing of blood vessels (atherosclerosis). The carotenoid content is much higher in the dark green flesh directly under the thick skin, so carefully peel your avocados! They are also rich in vitamin C and E, which work together to efficiently quench circulating free radicals and magnesium (which research shows may improve vascular integrity and insulin sensitivity).

Healthy Aging

Lutein and zeaxanthin, the primary carotenoids in avocados, are associated with reduced cartilage damage from inflammation and oxidative stress that is more present in the body as we age. The healthy monounsaturated fat content of avocados improves absorption of these carotenoids from other vegetables and fruits, which also serve to reduce risk of age-related eye dysfunction. As a result of the diverse antioxidant level in avocado, preliminary research has found that this fruit may be linked to reduced risk of mouth, skin and prostate cancer. However, there is more large-scale research needed to develop a clear association in this area.

Weight Management

Studies have shown that including avocados in your daily diet may aid in weight management. Avocados give the effect of feeling full, reducing self-reported hunger and increasing satisfaction. There is also evidence to show that the monounsaturated fats from avocado may aid in the prevention of abdominal fat accumulation.

Including Avocado in Your Diet

The flesh of a nicely ripened avocado will yield to a gentle pressure when lightly squeezed. Tree-ripened avocados will have a more narrow neck at the stem versus the perfectly rounded shape. If you see these, try to get your hands on them as they do pack extra flavor! Choose avocados that have a cohesive skin that is unbroken and free from welts or dark blemishes.

If you find that your avocados have not reached peak ripeness, you can ripen them at room temperature in a fruit basket and then place in the refrigerator to keep fresh for longer. It is important to note that the flesh of an avocado is susceptible to enzymatic browning turning the flesh a dark brown/black color if left exposed to the air for too long. To preserve the luscious green color squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over top the peeled flesh.

Recipe Ideas:

Did you know…

As an avocado ripens, its saturated fat content (fat that increases blood cholesterol) decreases and its monounsaturated fat (heart healthy fat) content increases! In other words, a soft and ripe avocado not only tastes more delicious, but also contains healthier fats compared to a hard, unripe avocado.