Let’s have a little talk about my favorite food on the entire planet. I could eat this morning, noon, and night and never ever get tired of it…at least I don’t think I could. Native to Mexico, it boasts over 80 different types with the largest American grove residing in California. This particular gem in a sea of healthy, delicious food wins me over every time. Most exciting is that the season of these green nuggets of amazingness is upon us, and I therefore have the wonderful opportunity to partake in them morning, noon, and night if I so choose. My friends, I am writing of the magical AVOCADO.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify one thing: the avocado is a fruit, and not a vegetable. Who knew?
The avocado, also known as the alligator pear, is not only extremely flavorful and can accompany, or be the base of, many dishes, but also flaunts an array of health benefits as well. Avocados are the only fruit that contain monounsaturated fat (avocadocentral.com). Monounsaturated fat is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes (mayoclinic.com). They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin B6. Additionally, avocados support cardiovascular and heart health, promote blood sugar regulation, and are thought to have anti-cancer properties, according to recent and current studies.
Topping a salad with avocado, or avocado oil, may be more beneficial than you think. Studies show that antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene are better absorbed with the healthy monounsaturated fat avocados have in abundance (this is also true for salsas). One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200 to 400 percent. Carotenoids are fat-soluble and would be provided with the fat they need for absorption from the addition of avocado (whfoods.com), validating the research of the avocado’s role.
At 26 years old, I suffer from osteoarthritis due to a foot injury that ultimately led to a midfoot fusion (translation: I did a good job breaking it, so they put a bunch of metal in it to hold it together). The phytonutrient compounds found in avocados, such as polyphenols and flavonoids have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, thereby reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (undergroundhealth.com). Any food that has anti-inflammatory properties is a huge plus in my book, and is just another reason to enjoy them.
One of my favorite dessert recipes with avocado is Chocolate Orange Pudding. It’s extremely easy, although the first time I made it I did have to tinker around with the ingredients a bit. This is essentially what I did:
- 1 ½ ripe avocados
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Agave nectar to taste
- Orange zest
- Garnish with small orange slices
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving
Forgive my lack of measurements. The first recipe I went off of turned into a disaster, so I started from scratch, added ingredients until I got the consistency of pudding, then added agave until desired sweetness, and finally orange zest to desired orange-ness. In the end, it turned out beautifully:
Whether you guacamole them, slice them, puree them, salsa them, bake with them, or eat them plain (with a pinch of salt and pepper), there’s no denying the compatibility of avocado with every day healthy eating. By making them a part of your diet, you are doing yourself, and your taste buds, a tremendous favor.
- To avoid quickly browning avocados, squeeze fresh lemon (or lime) on what you wish to save, wrap it up, and refrigerate it. Adding lemon or lime juice to guacamole can also help preserve it longer.
- On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans eat about 8 million pounds of guacamole. For Cinco de Mayo, the tally is closer to 14 million (webmd.com).
- Avocados can be used as a butter substitute in baking. Not only do they increase the nutritional value of baked goods, they also cut out (or down on) bad fats and empty calories. Generally, you can assume a one-to-one substitution of avocado for butter. You can also substitute avocados in place of oil, but the recipe may vary slightly to maintain consistency.
- Avocado trees do not self-pollinate; they need another avocado tree close by to bear fruit. The avocado is an Aztec symbol of love and fertility, and they also grow in pairs on trees (mindbodygreen.com).
What are your favorite recipes with avocado? Sound off in the comments (I’m always looking for new ones)!