Avocados epitomize nature’s bounty and balance. They offer a rich, creamy texture and an impressive nutrient composition.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. One serving is 1/3 of a medium avocado. It contains 5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat. Scientist have has found that eating unsaturated fats can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015, replacing saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated fats can significantly lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also lowers triglyceride levels, and has no adverse effects on HDL (good) cholesterol.
Moderate intake of unsaturated fats may also help with appetite control and weight loss. And they help with nutrient absorption from other foods. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K require the presence of a fat source for the body to absorb it.
Avocados Provide Fiber, Vitamins, Antioxidants, and More
One serving of avocado delivers 3 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber is considered vital in the prevention of many chronic diseases. These include coronary artery disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and various gastrointestinal conditions. A high-fiber diet promotes digestion and can reduce cholesterol levels. It also stabilizes blood glucose, lowers insulin resistance, and alleviates constipation. Dietary fiber also creates feelings of fullness. That helps lower body weight and decreases obesity.
Avocados offer more than 20 vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One serving of avocado provides 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of folate. Folate is crucial for proper brain growth and function. It also helps with the creation and division of new cells.
The potassium found in avocados lowers blood pressure, maintains fluid and electrolyte balance. It also acts as “chemical fuel” for muscle contraction and relaxation.
Avocados are a good source of vitamins C and E, essential nutrients for the growth and repair of body tissues. Vitamins C and E also serve as antioxidants to fight inflammation and boost immunity.
Avocados supply numerous phytochemicals. These are plant pigments that contribute to skin, eye, joint, and cellular health. The most abundant phytochemicals in avocados are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are concentrated in the eyes. These phytochemicals protect the eyes from age and environmental damage. They can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Cooking and Storing Avocados
Avocados are free of cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. As such, you can substitute them for foods that contain higher amounts of saturated fat and calories. Avocados are highly versatile and you can incorporate them into your diet in many ways:
- Top tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, or burritos with avocado slices or guacamole.
- Blend avocados into nutrient-packed desserts, smoothies or pasta sauce.
- Mash avocados into guacamole or other dips.
- Add sliced avocado to salads, chili or eggs.
- Stuff avocado halves with tuna, shredded chicken or bean salad.
- Spread avocado onto toast in place of butter or onto a sandwich instead of mayonnaise.
- Replace sour cream or mayonnaise with avocado in potato, chicken, egg or tuna salad.
Picking the Right Avocado
Avocados vary in shape (from pear-shaped to round), color (from green to black), and size. The most popular variety is the Hass avocado, sometimes referred to as an “alligator pear” due to its unique appearance.
You can determine an avocado’s ripeness by holding the fruit in the palm of your hand and squeezing lightly. Avocados that are hard or have a taut skin are not ripe yet, and will likely need a few days to ripen. To speed up the ripening process, place the avocado in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. An avocado that is firm, but yields gently to pressure, is ready to eat. In contrast, avocados that are soft and mushy are overripe.
Once cut, avocados perish quickly. The nutrients in the flesh begin to oxidize soon after being exposed to air. To minimize browning, drizzle lemon or lime juice over cut, mashed, or sliced avocados. The citric acid found in the juice will slow down the enzymatic reaction that leads to browning. Leaving the pit in the center of a cut avocado can also reduce browning.
You should always store leftover avocado in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Try an avocado Shamrock Shake!
Recipe serves: 1
- 1 cup milk of choice
- ½ avocado
- 1 very ripe banana
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 cup ice
- In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth.
Serving size: 1
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About UPMC Harrisburg
UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.