Avocados are large, green, egg-shaped fruits with a rich buttery flavor. The fruit is native to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, but is now cultivated in warm climates throughout the world. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with this unique fruit. They do, however, enjoy immense popularity in certain regions. In the United States, more avocados are consumed in California and Texas than in all the other states combined. This is probably due to the use of avocados in the Tex-Mex cuisine that is so popular in these areas. For those who have yet to try this tasty fruit, it's worth noting that there are health benefits to adding avocados to your diet.
What makes avocados so unique is their high monounsaturated fat content. The only other fruit with this claim to fame is the olive. Like the olive, avocados contain a significant amount of healthy monounsaturated fat. Although, the amount of fat they contain varies considerably depending on the variety. The Hass variety of avocado contains 18 to 30 percent monounsaturated oil. The Florida variety, which is a larger, lighter green avocado, contains just 3 to 5 percent monounsaturated oil.
Monounsaturated fats are considered good fats. Consuming this type of fat can actually lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, in the blood, and raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels. The most benefit from monounsaturated fats can be obtained by substituting unhealthy fats with them in the diet. For example mash and spread some avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise.
Avocados should be eaten in moderation because they are a calorie-dense food. Even though the fat they contain in considered a healthy fat, like all fats, the fat in avocados contains 9 calories per gram. Healthy fats are an important component to a balanced diet but should total no more than 30 to 35 percent of the daily calories eaten.
Avocados provide a lot of other healthy nutrients in addition to monounsaturated fat. One medium Hass avocado provides 40 percent of the recommended daily allowance of folate and 20 percent each of the RDA for potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid.
Selection and Storage
Avocados will dent slightly to pressure when ripe. Put them in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. They will go bad very quickly after this point, so consume them right away. To store partially eaten avocados, squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on the flesh to prevent it from turning brown. Then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. They should be consumed as quickly as possible after this because even when proper storage methods are taken, they will turn bad fairly quickly.
Ideas for Use
Avocados can be made into guacamole, a tasty chip dip that incorporates mashed avocados with onion, tomato, cilantro and lime juice. Avocados also taste great when sliced up and added to salads or sandwiches.