Avocados Are Healthy Fruits with Lots of Goodness
Is there such a thing as ‘good fat?' Well, nutritionists know that our bodies need fat to function properly, and one excellent source of 'good fat' comes from avocados. The question is, are avocados fruits or vegetables?
Which is it?
An avocado is a fruit, even though it tastes like a vegetable. Also referred to as 'alligator pears,' avocados are grown on trees, and may be egg-shaped, spherical, or pear-shaped. It’s sort of an ‘odd duck,’ because this fruit is actually a large berry which contains a large, hard seed in its middle. Avocados are grown in tropical climates throughout the world as an economically and nutritionally valuable fruit for native cultures.
Avocados are firm and hard when you buy them. Within a few days at home, they soften over time and become much softer and more flavorful. In essence, they ripen after they are harvested, much like a banana, when the fruit begins releasing natural chemicals.
Store-bought avocados in stores are quite different from avocados found in other regions, including Puebla, Mexico, where the fruit is said to have originated. The oldest avocado was found in a cave in Coxcatlan, Mexico where Puebla is today, and dates back almost to 10,000 BC. Avocado plants were introduced to the Indonesian culture in the mid 1700's, Brazil in the early 1800's, Levant in the 1900's, and South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century.
Avocados provide essential nutrients, fiber, Vitamin E, potassium, folic acid, and some B-vitamins. They also enable the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene and lutein. Thus, avocados have a higher 'good fat' content than most other fruits. This is why avocados are an important staple in diets where access to other healthful fatty foods like lean meats, fish, and dairy products may be limited.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats, and sodium that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. This diet should contain up to 30% of its calories from fats (primarily unsaturated) and should also be rich in potassium. Avocados are a nutrient dense food that helps you meet many of these AHA dietary guidelines all by itself.
Sensible helpings of avocado on a regular basis have all sorts of health benefits, including the shiny, strong hair and nails and younger looking skin we crave. Lowering your cholesterol in the process doesn’t hurt, either.
The Aztecs believed that avocados had aphrodisiac qualities, so they were known to them as 'the fertility fruit.' In the Nahuatl language, an avocado is called ahuacatl and is also found combined with other words, as in ahuacamolli, which means avocado soup or sauce, also the word from which guacamole is derived. Indian cultures refer to it as Butter Fruit due to its butter-like texture.
An average avocado tree produces about 1,200 avocados each year. Commercial orchards produce seven tons per hectare (about 2.5 acres) annually with some orchards churning out more than 20 tons per hectare.
How to eat
How do you tell if an avocado is ripe? Hold it in the palm of your hand and squeeze gently. The fruit should yield to gentle pressure. If you cut down an avocado lengthwise and twist it slightly to split it in half, it becomes easier to peel. Insert the blade of a knife into the pit and give it a nudge to pop the pit out. Then, you can use the knife tip to slice through the flesh inside, not the outside peel. Now, turn the nubby peeling inside-out and the flesh will pop out easily.
The flesh of an avocado turns brown quickly after being exposed to air. To prevent this, sprinkle some lemon or lime juice on the avocado after it has been peeled. The citrus juice will slow the browning process and compliment the flavor of the fruit as well. This is one of the reasons avocado dishes often call for the addition of fresh lime or lemon juice.
Avocado are most often served raw, since many varieties turn bitter when cooked. There are a few dishes that call for a brief time in the oven to warm the avocado. Avocado are often used in guacamole and other salsas, as a topping for a green salad, or with sandwiches, hamburgers, and even some varieties of sushi.
The high fat content of avocados make them perfect for blending with other fruits and vegetables to make smoothie drinks. Avocados are also used as additives for ice cream, creating a very subtle flavor profile and creamy texture.
If you haven’t tried avocados often (other than in guacamole), you may be surprised at how versatile this super-food fruit really is. Avocados are a delicious, healthy treat that brings a powerhouse of nutrition into your diet.