Did you grow up avoiding eating avocados because they were “fatty” and loaded with calories? Many of us did. However, today’s nutritionists recognize the avocado as one of the healthiest fruits around.
Yes, avocado has a high content of fatty acids, but these fats offer many nutritional benefits. The “good” fats in avocado can help keep your cholesterol levels down and can decrease your risk for heart disease. On a sandwich, mashed avocado offers fewer calories and more nutrition than butter or mayo.
Sometimes called alligator pears, avocados are packed with fiber, vitamin K, folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and more than twice the potassium of a banana. The fruit also contains vitamin E, niacin, and riboflavin, and when you eat an avocado along with other foods, it can help your body absorb other important nutrients, such as lutein and alpha- and beta-carotene.
Avocados are believed to have originated in Mexico. Historians report that Spanish explorers found the fruit there in the early 16th century, but drawings discovered in early Aztec settlements reveal that avocados grew wild in Central America and South America thousands of years before then.
Eventually, Mexican avocado trees found their way to California along with early settlers, and today California grows nearly 90 percent of the U.S. avocado crop. (And many homesteaders grow them indoors.)
Not only is it the basis for guacamole, but fresh avocado is a great addition to salads, and it can be tasty sliced as a snack or spread on a sandwich or crackers. Now let’s look at the 10 main health benefits of avocados.
1. Potassium. Avocados are high in potassium, which helps reduce high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
2. Vitamins. Eating an avocado is almost like talking a natural daily vitamin supplement. It is especially high in vitamins K, B5 and C.
3. Healthy fats. Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid. Oleic acid, which also is in olive oil, helps reduce inflammation in the body and is important to heart health.
4. Fiber. Fiber consumption contributes to weight loss, reduces blood sugar spikes and helps maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestine.
5. Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Avocados are linked with healthy cholesterol and blood markers and fewer heart disease risk factors.
6. Nutrient absorption. Eating avocados along with other food helps your body better utilize nutrients, especially antioxidants absorption.
7. Antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two nutrients contained in avocados that are important for eye health.
8. Bone health. Extracts from avocado oil, called avocado unsaponifiables, can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.
9. Appetite reduction. Eating a meal that contains avocados may help you feel fuller longer, helping you to consume fewer calories.
10. Nutritious baby food. When you are ready to feed your six-month-old or older baby solid food, mashed avocado is a fine choice. More nutritious than an apple or a banana, avocado provides protein, folate, vitamin B6 and the 10 essential amino acids.
How to Select and Store Avocados
Avocados have their best flavor when they are perfectly ripe. A ripe avocado feels slightly soft when you apply a little pressure to the skin.
To ripen a hard avocado, place it in a paper bag and then check it each day, or put it next to a banana in your countertop fruit bowl. You can place a ripe avocado in the refrigerator to preserve its freshness. Once you have opened an avocado, a squeeze of lemon juice can help protect it from browning.
Ready to add some more avocados into your life? Try them fresh and raw or here is an easy guacamole recipe to try
Guacamole (yields 2 1/2 cups)
3 medium to large avocados
1 firm tomato, diced
1/2 white onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 TB fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Open the avocados by cutting them length-wise around the pit and then using a sharp knife to strike the pit so that it sticks there. Now twist the knife so that you can easily the pit and scoop out the flesh.
Mash the flesh with a fork.
Stir in other ingredients.