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The one and only – awesome avocado

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Dec 21, 2015

In just about every grocery store across the United States, you will find a fruit with such versatility, such desirable qualities it can be incorporated into recipes from guacamole dip, salsas, hummus, added to sandwiches, smoothies and even brownies.

Not only does this fruit have such a medley of uses, it also has a unique nutritional profile when compared to other fruits. It’s the amazing avocado, a fruit everyone should learn to love.

“In recent years, the U.S. government has even revised its official nutrition guidelines to urge Americans to eat more avocados,” says Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Moderation is still key since one medium avocado boasts 30 grams of fat.”

Avocados fascinating history in the United States

Also known as butter fruit due to its creamy texture and sometimes as alligator fruit due to its bumpy, dark green, leather-like skin, avocados in the U.S. have a rich history established in La Habra Heights, California. In 1926, Rudolph Hass, a postal worker and amateur horticulturist, planted a grafted avocado tree on his property in La Habra Heights. The graft didn’t take but a seedling did which turned out to be the first Hass (rhymes with “pass”) avocado tree, named after Rudolph Hass. The Hass avocado variety was patented by Hass in 1935. Even though the original tree died in 2003, it is still considered the “Mother Tree” or the genetic parent of all Hass avocados. A plaque commemorates the location where the tree grew along with an annual avocado festival held in the city of La Habra Heights.

Facts on avocados

California produces about 90% of avocados in the U.S. with San Diego County considered the avocado capital producing about half of all avocados grown in California. Avocados are a fruit that takes time to ripen – 14-18 months. They are grown year-round but their peak season runs from spring to early fall. Each year a single avocado tree can produce up to 500 avocados or 200 pounds of fruit.

Avocados amazing health benefits

Avocados health benefits is their real opportunity to shine and earn their awe-inspiring label. Adding avocados to your daily diet can boost health in ways you may not realize. Here’s what this naturally nutrient dense food has to offer:

• Healthy fat – Even though avocados are considered a high-fat fruit, it’s the type of fat that makes all the difference. One-fifth of an avocado contains 4.5 grams of fat with 3 grams being the heart healthy monounsaturated fat. The majority of calories (about 60 calories in one-fifth) do come from fat but consuming monounsaturated fats helps lower cholesterol and keeps you feeling full curbing your appetite for not-so-healthy foods. Avocados are also cholesterol free.

“Avocados are high in fat, but more of the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated, the heart-healthy kind that actually lowers bad cholesterol,” stated Dr. Samadi. “Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and potassium and are extremely nutritious. They can also help lower triglyceride levels, help you lose weight, and may even prevent cancer.”

“In regards to unhealthy dietary fats, there are two culprits: saturated fat and trans fat. These fats are commonly found in animal food sources,” said Dr. Samadi. “Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are most often a result of food processing and are often referred to as synthetic or industrial. Synthetic trans fats can increase LDL and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol), thus increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Your skin and hair will thank you for eating avocados by responding with an extra glow and smoothness. The fat in avocados helps absorb vitamins and minerals necessary to boost the immune system and slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar keeping blood sugar levels more stable.

• Healthy eyes – Two phytochemicals, lutein and zeaxanthin found in avocados are essential to minimizing and reducing the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration in the eyes as we grow older.

• Healthy babies – Folate is a B vitamin best known for preventing neural tube defects in babies. A half cup of avocados provides about 102 mcg of folate out of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 400 mcg. The folate status of women before conception is important but dad’s folate status before conception may be just as important in producing a healthy offspring. Speaking of offspring, avocados buttery taste and creamy texture is perfect for babies old enough to eat solid foods.

• Healthy bones – Avocados are equipped with an important tool called vitamin K making it an ally in building bone. Vitamin K is necessary for improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium. Consume a half cup of avocados and you’ll get 30% or 24 mcg of the RDA for vitamin K.

• Healthy digestion and natural detoxification- You wouldn’t guess it due to its creamy texture but avocados are a great source of fiber. A half cup provides 7.8 grams reducing constipation and promoting regularity necessary for the excretion of toxins through bowel movements. This same dietary fiber may also be influential in keeping the immune system healthy and inflammation to a minimum.

Dr. Samadi added, “Avocados are also great for our liver because they help our bodies produce a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione helps the liver get rid of harmful toxins.”

• Healthy outlook on life – Depression may actually be reduced from the abundance of folate found in avocados which prevents the excessive formation of the amino acid homocysteine. An excess of homocysteine can interfere with the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all feel-good hormones helping regulate our mood in addition to our sleep and appetite. By obtaining adequate folate, your risk of depression may be reduced.

• Healthy weight – When following a calorie-reduced diet, be sure to include avocados without worrying about the fat content. Over 75% of the fat in an avocado is unsaturated fat, a healthy fat along with the fiber it contains making it a satisfying food keeping you feeling fuller longer. Factor in the almost 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals avocados provide and you’ll feel confident in choosing it to aid in weight loss.

Adding avocados to your diet

If you’re not a regular consumer of avocados, they can be somewhat challenging to know the proper storage and use of them. Avocados can be left at room temperature, avoiding direct sunlight, for four to five days if they are unripe, firm or green. They can be stored in the refrigerator but the ripening process will take longer. To tell if the avocado is ripe, gently press into the skin and there will be some give to it. Ripe uncut avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Once cut, sprinkle lemon or lime juice or another acidic agent onto the exposed fruit, place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator and use within one day.

Here are some ideas on adding avocados to your diet:

• Its smooth, creamy texture can be used to replace butter on toast or other spreads such as mayonnaise.
• They make a delicious dip to go with chips or veggie sticks.
• Slice them to add to a salad.
• Add to a sandwich or wrap for a creamy flair.
• Eat them as they are sprinkled with lemon juice or topped with another favorite seasoning such as paprika or balsamic vinegar.

Avocado central provides more information and delicious recipes on how avocados can be a healthy daily addition to your food choices. Try an avocado today and discover its appeal and captivating allure.

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.