Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, improve your blood cholesterol levels and may also help you control blood sugar levels. Some people even consider avocados to be aphrodisiacs.They also contain fiber, minerals, B-complex vitamins, and vitamins C and E. Because of the monounsaturated fatty acids, they are higher in calories than most fruits - about 240 calories per cup of avocado slices or cubes.
One cup of avocado slices has:
- 2.92 grams protein
- 21.4 grams total fat, of which 14.3 grams are monounsaturated fats.
- 9.8 grams fiber
- 42 milligrams magnesium
- 708 milligrams potassium
- 14.6 grams vitamin C
- 2.5 milligrams niacin
- 118 micrograms folate
- 213 International Units vitamin A
- 3.02 milligrams vitamin E
Avocados are dark green to black fruits found in the produce section of your local grocery store. The tough, rugged exterior of most avocados resembles the skin of an alligator, so they're sometimes called alligator pears. The exterior may be rough, but the flesh inside is soft and smooth. Technically, avocados are fruits, but they're very low in sugar, so they're not sweet at all. They have a creamy texture and mild flavor.
Avocados originated in the southern part of Mexico and have been cultivated for centuries. Today, Haas avocados, the most common variety, are grown in California. They have dark almost black pebbly skin and are available year round. Florida avocados, or slimcados, are similar, but their skins are smoother and lighter in color. They're also lower in fat than California avocados. Other varieties of avocados include:
Fuerte: Pear-shaped with a smooth skin and pale green flesh. Available late fall through early spring.
Gwen: Oval-shaped with thick green pebbly skin. It's available late winter through late summer.
Pinkerton: Long and pear shaped with green pebbly skin. Pinkerton avocados are available winter through spring.
Reed: Round with green smooth skin. It's available in the summer and fall.
Zutano: Pear-shaped with shiny yellowish green skin. It's available in the fall and early winter.
Selecting, Storing and Using Avocados
Choose avocados based upon when you're going to eat them. If you plan on using them right away, choose avocados that are slightly soft when you press on them. If you plan on using them in three or four days, pick avocados that are firm under pressure. If you bought firm avocados and you need them sooner, you may be able to speed up the ripening process by putting them in a paper bag with an apple and storing them at room temperature - but it's difficult to use unripened avocados in most recipes.
When you're ready to use your avocado, cut it in half lengthwise. There's a big seed in the middle of the avocado, so your knife won't go all the way through, you'll have to slide the blade around the seed. Grasp both sides of the avocado and gently twist it apart. Remove the seed and either peel the skin away from the green flesh, or scoop it out with a spoon.
Fresh avocado can be used on sandwiches, in salads, and is the main ingredient of guacamole. Here are some healthful recipes that feature avocado:
- Chunky Guacamole
- Avocado Yoghurt Dip
- Avocado, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
- Portabella Mushroom Burger with Avocados
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The surprising avocado." Accessed April 29, 2012. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442462296
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Healthy fats?" Accessed April 29, 2012. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442465021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fruit of the month: Avocado." Accessed April 29, 2012. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/avocado.html
United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24. "Nutrient data for 09037, Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties." Accessed April 29, 2012. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2257