Avocados grow on trees in warmer climates but are native to Mexico. They have a creamy and smooth texture and are covered by a bumpy, thick, dark green or blackish skin. A third of a medium avocado (50 grams or just under 2 ounces) is considered one serving. It contains 80 calories and is packed with healthy fats, vitamins. minerals and phytonutrients.
The question of whether an avocado is a fruit or vegetable is not an uncommon one. Both fruits and vegetables come from plants, and it can be hard to distinguish between them. In fact, there is no formal way to do so. However, the main botanical difference is from which part of the plant they originate. While fruits develop from a plant’s flower and often contain seeds, vegetables usually consist of the stalks, flower buds, roots or leaves. Although these guidelines are not set in stone, they should be sufficient to distinguish between fruits and vegetables most of the time.
Squash (Butternut, etc.)
Making delicious guacamole (or just “guac” as we call it at my house) is done by simply mashing the avocado with lemon juice and adding other optional ingredients such as onion, cilantro, chili, tomato, and/or sour cream.
They also make a great topping for any salad. Because of their high fat content, they help you absorb vitamins from other vegetables in the meal. Furthermore, their smooth and creamy texture makes them a great choice for puddings or smoothies. Lastly, avocados can be used as a replacement for butter either as a spread or in baking. I have used it as a butter substitute in both cakes and cookies with great success.
An interesting note is that the method you use to peel an avocado might make a difference to your health. Research on avocado shows that the greatest phytonutrient concentrations occur in portions of the food that we do not typically eat, namely, the peel and the seed (or "pit.") The pulp of the avocado is actually much lower in phytonutrients than these other portions of the food. However, while lower in their overall phytonutrient richness, all portions of the pulp are not identical in their phytonutrient concentrations and the areas of the pulp that are closest to the peel are higher in certain phytonutrients than more interior portions of the pulp. For this reason, you don't want to slice into that outermost, dark green portion of the pulp any more than necessary when you are peeling an avocado. Accordingly, the best method is what the California Avocado Commission has called the "nick and peel" method. In this method, you actually end up peeling the avocado with your hands in the same way that you would peel a banana. The first step in the nick-and-peel method is to cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next you take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. The final result is a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh, which provides you with the best possible phytonutrient richness from the pulp portion of the avocado.
As with so many other fruits and vegetables, not all varieties of avocado are created equally. Don’t get me wrong here, all avocados are all very healthy, but one variety is the most nutritionally dense of all. The Haas avocado offers as much as 4 times more phytonutrients than other varieties of avacado.
Why increasing absorption of these nutrients matters: Alpha- and beta-carotene can form Vitamin A in the body, which is important for proper growth and reproduction as well as good eyesight. Vitamin A is involved in immune functions, vision and cellular function. Vitamin A also supports cellular growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
When it comes to vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, it doesn’t matter how much we eat. It really doesn’t!
What matters is how much we absorb.
Adding just half of an avocado to a salad of spinach, lettuce and carrots saw participants absorb the antioxidants alpha-carotene 8.3 times, beta-carotene 13.6 times and lutein 4.3 times better than those who ate the salad without avocado.
Some food sources of vitamin A include:
- sweet potatoes – baked sweet potato “fries” go great with avocado dip
- spinach – try in in a whole-wheat pita and avocado sandwich
- carrots – try combining with your favorite guacamole
- mango – add to a flavorful fruit salsa or add some to guacamole instead of some tomatoes
Avocados contribute nearly 20 vitamins, lots of minerals and tons of phytonutrients, including 4% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E, 4% vitamin C, 6% folate, 8% fiber, 2% iron, 4% potassium, with 81 micrograms of lutein and 19 micrograms of beta-carotene.
What kind of nutrition does the avocado offer?
Dietary Fiber - Dietary fiber is the non-digestible form of carbohydrates and lignin. Dietary fiber naturally occurs in plants, helps provide a feeling of fullness, and is important in promoting healthy laxation. Dietary fiber that occurs naturally in foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Children and adults should consume foods naturally high in dietary fiber in order to increase nutrient density, promote healthy lipid profiles and glucose tolerance, and ensure normal gastrointestinal function.
Folic Acid - Folate helps produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. Both adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine, and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid.
Iron – Iron carries oxygen throughout your body so cells can produce energy. When levels of iron are low, fatigue, weakness and poor tolerance to temperature extremes often result.
Magnesium – Magnesium in the body serves several important functions: contraction and relaxation of muscles, function of certain enzymes in the body, production and transport of energy, production of protein.
Potassium - Dietary potassium can lower blood pressure by blunting the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure. Other possible benefits of an eating pattern rich in potassium include a reduced risk of developing kidney stones and decreased bone loss.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) - Niacin, is a B-vitamin, it helps the digestive system, skin, and nerves to function. It is also important for converting food to energy.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and red blood cell production and helps in releasing energy from carbohydrates.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) - Pantothenic acid, is a B-vitamin and is essential for growth. Along with biotin, it helps the body break down and use food. Pantothenic acid also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) - Pyridoxine (vitamin B6), also a B-vitamin, helps the body to: make antibodies (antibodies are needed to fight many diseases), maintain normal nerve function, make hemoglobin (hemoglobin carries oxygen in the red blood cells to the tissues), break down proteins and keep blood sugar (glucose) in normal ranges.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) - Thiamin (vitamin B1), also one of the B-vitamins, helps the body's cells convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.
Vitamin E - The body also needs vitamin E to boost its immune system so that it can fight off invading bacteria and viruses. It helps to widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting within them. In addition, cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and to carry out many important functions.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) - Vitamin C is important for your skin, bones, and connective tissue. It promotes healing and helps the body absorb iron.
Vitamin K - Vitamin K helps your body by making proteins for healthy bones and tissues. It also makes proteins for blood clotting. If you don't have enough vitamin K, you may bleed too much.
This fat-filled fruit tastes so delicious that it seems like it can’t be good for you! Luckily, that couldn’t be further from the truth – avocados are bursting with nutrients and offer a myriad of health benefits.
In fact, research shows that people who eat avocados tend to be generally healthier, with a much higher nutrient intake and lower Body Mass Index than those who don’t.
So, don’t just limit your avocado consumption to Superbowl season…you’ll be missing out on tons of great health benefits if you do!