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Fabiola Obregón, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Avocado’s Good Green Fruit Fats

01/08/2014 07:22PM | 11344 views

Did you know the avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable? No matter what variety – and there are hundreds of them – shape, color, or size, avocados are healthy for you. When you eat an avocado you are truly nourishing your body with many essential nutrients: vitamins A, C & E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and fiber. What‘s more, avocados are ‗farm-to-market‘ foods, meaning they don‘t require any processing, preservatives, or taste enhancers.

The tasty and versatile avocado originated in Mexico and Central America, where it remains, of course, a staple food. Fortunately, avocados are also readily available throughout the United States, allowing us to enjoy the many health benefits this popular food provides.

  • Cardiovascular Health. Although avocados are high in calories compared to other fruits, most of these calories come from healthy fats: monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs). These kinds of ―good fats‖ combined with the dietary fiber in avocados helps lower your ―bad‖ LDL cholesterol and raise your ―good‖ HDL cholesterol. In addition, avocado‘s high content of MUFA and potassium can help lower blood pressure.
     
  • Antioxidants. Avocados are among the few foods that contain significant levels of both vitamins C and E, which act as antioxidants. Vitamin C plays an important role in recycling vitamin E to maintain circulatory antioxidant protection. Avocados are the complete antioxidant package.
     
  • Skin Health. Our skin is often a window into showing us how we are aging. Filled with the anti-inflammatory carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, avocados may help combat damage to your skin from everyday exposure to UV radiation from sunlight (and tanning beds— avoid!). Exposure to UV rays accelerates the aging of skin cells and is linked with several degrees of damage, from simple wrinkles to some forms of skin cancer. A recent clinical study found that the concentration of carotenoids in the skin was directly related to the level of vegetable and fruit intake including avocados. Eat that guacamole, your skin will thank you.
     
  • Satiety and Weight Management. Due to their healthy oils and fiber content, avocados are filling and keep you satisfied longer than other plant foods. Recent research conducted on overweight adults showed that adding ½ of a fresh avocado to a lunch meal increased satisfaction and reduced the desire to eat over the following 3 to 5 hour period. The satiety factor of foods is important in helping you avoid going for large snacks between meals, which may contribute to weight gain.

Now here are 6 ways to enjoy an avocado. Let this be your starting point and get creative with the versatile avocado. 

  1. Mash it and make it guacamole…
    Mexican: fresh lime juice, tomatoes, onions, chiles, cilantro
    Guatemalan: fresh lime juice, onions, oregano powder, cilantro or parsley
     
  2. Add chunks to your favorite salad or fill one avocado half with some fresh salsa and enjoy by the spoonful!
     
  3. (Health Note: Recent clinical research indicates that adding avocado to salads without dressing or with reduced fat/fat-free dressing as well as serving avocados with salsa increases your body’s absorption and use of antioxidant carotenoids naturally found in your salad and salsa by 2 to 5 times).
     
  4. Make chilled avocado soup. This rich and filling soup perfectly blends the flavors of fresh cilantro, chicken/vegetable broth and lime juice with avocado’s creamy texture.
     
  5. Use avocados as a stuffing. Puree an avocado with kale or any hearty green, add your favorite spices and chiles, stuff the mixture into a potato or mushrooms, bake for 5 minutes at 350, and you have a delicious dish.
     
  6. Freshen up your sandwiches by using avocado slices instead of cheese slices.
  7. Try Asian fusion food. Coat avocado slices with sesame seeds, add marinated cabbage, and wrap up into a spring roll

So how to best select and store them? When selecting avocados, look for medium to hard firmness and expect them to reach their optimum texture and taste in about 3 days. Only buy them soft to the touch (but never mushy!) if you plan to eat them that same day. You may have heard about placing avocados in a paper bag with bananas or apples to speed up ripening; this trick works because these fruits naturally release ethylene gas, which does make avocados ripen faster. To slow down the oxidation and browning that occurs to avocados once they are peeled, simply add fresh lime or lemon juice: not only will you keep the colors bright for an attractive dish, you will also add more nutrients to the mix.

As with foods high in fat – yes, even good green fruit fats – the key is enjoying them in the right portion. For optimum health benefits from the avocado, stick to eating only one half… as tempting as this tasty fruit may be. 

Sources:

University of California, Agriculture & Natural Resources (ucavo.ucr.edu)
Dreher ML. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2013.
Roth, G. Experimental Biology, 2009.Wien, M. Nutrition Journal, 2013.
American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Prevention (www.cancer.org) 

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