Super Food: Avocado

What is 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 in the way that they offer healthy monounsaturated fats and an array of antioxidants!

There are hundreds of varieties of avocados, with Hass avocados being the most common commercial cultivars in the world. 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 later after the fruit has been harvested it will finish its ripening process at room temperature. Avocados can be left on the tree to ripen, however this will pose a higher risk of the avocado detaching from its branch and plummeting to the ground before it is picked in time.

Why is it healthy?

Cardiovascular Benefits:
High concentrations of carotenoids and lipophilic antioxidant capacity of avocados may help reduce lipid peroxidation in the blood; reducing vascular damage and bad cholesterol build up that in turn decreases atherosclerosis or narrowing of blood vessels. 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 that 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 with the effects that avocados have on reducing self-reported hunger, 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:

  • Avocado-enriched smoothies
  • Guacamole dip
  • White bean and avocado dip
  • Mango Avocado Salsa (from this months newsletter)
  • Use avocado on your burger swapping out the cheese
  • Shrimp veggie and avocado rice paper rolls
  • Avocado on toast
  • Top any salad with diced avocado
  • Creamy avocado dressing
  • Avocado Omelet
  • Raw Chocolate Avocado Pie
  • Chocolate avocado mousse

Did you know that…
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 is tastes more delicious, but it also contains healthier fats compared to a hard unripe avocado.

July 1, 2014
Revive Wellness