All About Avocados
Avocados aren't simply for guacamole anymore! Don't get me wrong, I looove a good guacamole, but avocado with smoked salmon, on toast with chia seeds and lemon, in fresh summer rolls, or simply on a salad, makes my mouth water. There is a reason why avocados are so talked about and touted as the most popular and accessible "superfood" around.
Avocados in the US are predominantly from Mexico (however that is quickly changing as Peru becomes a bigger supplier due to their organic practices) and are actually a berry botanically speaking. They grow well in warm climates such as Mexico (obviously), California, Hawaii, Florida, Peru (organic Hass avocados), the Mediterranean, and other parts of South and Central America. Like bananas, avocados can't tolerate frost and mature on the tree and then ripen after harvest. In fact, avocados are like bananas in many ways.
Once picked, avocados ripen within 1-2 weeks at room temperature, and faster if refrigerated or stored with bananas (due to ethylene gas), so speed to market is very important. You can actually grow your own avocado plant indoors from the pit, however it will take a few years to bare fruit.
When you select an avocado in the store, make sure it's firm, but not hard and that it is bagged carefully and away from the bananas. When exposed to air, the flesh of an avocado browns quickly, however this does not impact the flavor. It does however, make it unappealing, therefore you can slow the oxidation by using lemon, lime or yuzu. Avocado's smooth texture works well with sweet as well as savory dishes, however a generous pinch of salt does wonders for extracting flavor. Avocados or most commonly served raw, but you can grill them without risk of them getting bitter, and they work well as an accompaniment to so many dishes including salads, sandwiches, sushi, fish, chicken, shrimp, red meat, eggs, milkshakes, the list goes on and shouldn't be limited to mexican-style food! They are too delicious and nutritious to be held back.
What makes avocados so special?
The reason why avocados are considered a superfood, is due to their high nutritional value otherwise known as nutrient density. Nutrient density is the measure of nutrients a food supplies relative to the number of calories it provides. While avocados have a relatively large number of calories, they are extremely nutrient dense and therefore an exceptional addition to your balanced diet.
In a single serving (1 cup), you get the following:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA
- Folate: 20% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA
- Potassium: 14% of the RDA- that is more than a banana (which is 10%)!
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA
- Also great source of: magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorous, Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
- 2 grams of protein
- NO cholesterol
- 15 grams of healthy fats
- 234 calories
High in Healthy Fats
I know that the term "healthy fat" seems like an oxymoron, but there is truly such a thing. Avocados are predominantly sources of the monounsaturated fatty acid known as oleic acid (also a major component in olive oil), which is linked to reduced inflammation, promotion of brain function, heart health, as well as strengthening hair, nails, and eyes. Yes, avocados are high it fat- in fact they are one of the fattiest foods (we are talking real food- that grows, not the stuff produced in a factory or lab, which I don't actually consider food) on earth- 77% of calories come from fat- however the type of fat does matter, A LOT.
Additionally, avocado oil, as well as, the oil in avocados is very resistant to heat- It has a low smoke point- and is therefore a great choice for cooking. It is however, an expensive choice.
Avocados are Loaded with Fiber
Fiber is undigestible plant matter that can contribute to weight loss, reduce blood sugar spikes, and a lower the risk of colon cancer as well as many other diseases. Additionally. soluble fiber is known for feeding friendly gut bacteria in the intestine, which is important for optimal body function.
Avocados Are a Better Source of Potassium than Bananas
Potassium is an important nutrient, that most people aren't consuming enough of today. Potassium is critical to maintaining the heartbeat... The sudden death that occur during fasting, severe diarrhea, or sever vomiting are thought to be due to heart failure caused by potassium loss. Sorry to be so dramatic, but potassium is super important. It is the yin to sodium's yang- potassium and sodium need to work in balance in order for your body to function well and to maintain your blood pressure. Potassium deficiency is especially dangerous because it affects brain cells, making you unaware of the need for water. That is the opposite reaction that your body has to a sodium deficiency, which makes you thirsty...
Several studies show, including one by the American Heart Association, that having a high natural potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. And, avocados are very high in potassium (14% or RDA in one serving), so....
Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Heart disease is still the most common cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and it is known that cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood pressure and other markers are linked to increased risk of heart disease. Studies conducted by the NIH (including, but not limited to these: 1, 2, 3) have shown that avocados can significantly reduce blood triglycerides, lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
The Fat in Avocados Can Help Absorb Other Plant Nutrients
Now this is a huge bonus! So, not all nutrients are simply water soluble, some are fat soluble, which means you need fat in order to digest them. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K, and there are additional antioxidants such as carotenoids that are also fat-soluble. What that means is that in order for your body to actually be able to use these vitamins when you consume them, they need to be consumed with or combined with some sort of fat or oil. For that reason, digesting food with avocados or avocado oil, which is highly soluble and breakdown easily in your system, are actually beneficial to getting out the full nutrient benefits of the other plant based foods that you consume. So, try some avocado oil with your next salad!
More Health Benefits of Avocados
Avocados are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are incredibly important for eye health. Studies have shown that these nutrients are linked to drastically reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (common in elderly).
Additionally, multiple studies have shown that avocados likely reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis when consumed regularly.
Avocados are delicious and good for you- can't ask for much more than that.