Food Facts: Avocados
“I suppose there are people who can pass up free guacamole, but they're either allergic to avocado or too joyless to live.” ~ Frank Bruni
Avocados. There are so many reasons to love them. They’re luscious and buttery. They’re super healthy and goes beautifully with just about any dish from protein to salads to smoothies. And then we haven’t even started singing the Guacamole praises – one of the great joys of life…
Avocados are actually large single seeded berries and can be divided into three types: the West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican. Avocados are native to Central and South America and spread to Jamaica and the Asian tropical regions in the mid 1800s. Even European sailors on route to the new world used avocados as a delicious substitute for butter.
Nutritional highlights and health benefits
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins and fibre. One avocado has the potassium content of two to three bananas.
A 100g serving is about half an avocado and provides 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 14.7g of fat, 8.5 g of carbohydrate and 6.7 g of fibre.
These fat grams are 9.8g of health promoting monounsaturated fats – (good fats) 2,8g of polyunsaturated fats and 2.1 of saturated fats. As for minerals – this size serving provides 485 milligrams of potassium.
Avocados also contain nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that make them one of the most nutrient dense foods.
Hass avocados have a higher content of the deep yellow pigment Lutein than any other commonly eaten fruit. This pigment is associated with several health benefits and a protective effect against age-related macular degeneration (vision loss).
Avocados are high in unsaturated fatty acids and include Omega 6 and 9 oils.
A diet high in avocados can decrease cholesterol and has beneficial effects on the dilation of blood vessels and inflammation, all good for heart health.
A metabolic advantage of avocados is that they contain very small amounts of available carbohydrate and thus have little impact on blood sugar levels. This makes them suitable for people trying to stabilize their blood sugar and manage their weight. Monounsaturated fats found in avocados have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
Anti-cancer properties: Avocados may offer an effective dietary strategy in cancer prevention due to its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to select and store
Ripe avocados should yield slightly to gentle pressure. A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. Put avocados next to bananas and it will ripen a bit faster. As it ripens, the skin will turn darker.
Quick serving ideas
Guacamole: Mix chopped avocados, red onion, tomatoes, fresh coriander, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Spread ripe avocado on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise or butter when making a sandwich.
Make delicious salads like avocado with fennel, orange segments and fresh mint.
Blend avocado with pineapple and almond/coconut milk for a tasty “avocalada” smoothie.
United states Department of Agriculture (2011) Avocado: Nutrition information from USDA SR22 database
Nutrition data avocados, raw, all commercial varieties (2012)
Fulgoni VL, et al (2013) Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults:results from the National Healthand Nutrition Examination survey (NHANES)2001-2008. Nutr J;12;1
Riccardi et al (2004) Dietary fat, insulinsensitivity and the metabolic syndrome. Clin Nutr;23;227-456
D’ambrosia SM et al (2011)Aliphatic acetogenin constituents of avocado fruits inhibit human oral cancer cellproliferation by targeting the EGFR/RAS/RAF pathway. Biochem Biophys Res Commun;409;465-469