One of my very favorite foods is the avocado. This unique, buttery, fruit is so versatile and nutritious that, rather than apple, for me it’s an avocado a day. Perhaps people think anything that tastes this good and rich must be bad for you, because somehow avocados have gotten the reputation of being unhealthy indulgences. Au contraire mes amies.
It is true avocados have a high fat content, but it’s the good kind of fat. Avocado oil has more of the heart healthy monounsaturated fat than olive oil. In fact one study gave subjects ½ to 1 ½ avocados per day and their total blood cholesterol began to fall in a week while their body weight did not increase. In addition avocados average only 136 to 150 calories each even though they contain up to 30% fat. So you can stop fearfully denying yourself the pleasures of this little treasure.
You may be surprised at some of the avocado’s other nutritional facts. Avocados are:
- 1.5 times higher in potassium than a banana
- Contain 2.4 grams of protein per 100 grams of flesh, and this is a complete protein with all amino acids present
- Have 4.5 times more soluble fiber than apples
- Are good sources of vitamins A, the B vitamins, C and E
- Are rich in enzymes particularly lipase. Why is this good? Lipase reduces those nasty blood fats and triglycerides to benign fatty acids and glycerol.
Are you starting to fall in love with avocados too? The cherry on the top is they have helped with my weight reduction program. After eating a meal with avocado I feel satisfied and stay satisfied. I don’t get that nebulous craving for “something but I don’t know what” and therefore the uncontrollable snacking has stopped.
This from Mercola: “Those. . . who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch, reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal, and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark, compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. They also reported feeling 26 percent more satiated after their meal compared to those who didn’t eat avocado.”
OK now that we’ve established the wonderful little avocado should be on your shopping list let’s take a quick look at what to look for in the market.
While there are around 500 varieties of avocado planted around the world there are two dominant varieties in the Americas (North and South); the Hass and Fuerte. The Hass (formerly known as Haas) is the one with the brownish-greenish-black bumpy skin and is available year round. From January to June markets may also offer the pear shaped green skinned Fuerte. The Hass is probably the best know in the United States holding 70% of the market. However, the Fuerte is the leading variety in Europe and Chile.
Avocados ripen quite easily on your kitchen counter so it’s OK that they are generally still hard when in the bin at your market. Gently press on the stem end or squeeze the fruit to see if it is ripe. If there is any give they are ripe.
Since I eat them virtually every day I try to get a variety from ripe to quite firm to rock hard. By the time I’ve eaten the riper ones the hard ones will have ripened in the wire bowl on my counter.
Cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Insert the knife down to the resistance of the pit then slide it around the pit till you have two halves. With a half in each hand twist them slightly in opposite directions and pull apart. Now wack the pit lightly with the knife edge (watch your fingers) and give it a little twist. It should come out easily. Since I like to keep my fingers well away from the knife blade, I usually wack the knife handle, pit side down, on a hard surface like the edge of the counter or an empty trash can to remove the pit from the blade.
If the avocado is properly ripe you can peel it easily by hand. This can get a little messy so you can also use a big spoon to scoop out the flesh. I often begin preparing the flesh while it is still in the skin. You can cut the flesh into strips or cubes, being careful not to penetrate the skin, before scooping it out with a spoon. I sometimes also pre-mash it a bit with a fork before scooping the flesh into a mixture. (I’ll be honest; it’s one less bowl I have to wash later.)
With its buttery texture and mild flavor the versatility of this little treasure seems endless. In the posts to follow I’ll share some of my staple avocado recipes. In the mean time here are some ideas to get you creating some staple recipes of your own.
- Try mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich.
- Peel but keep the halves intact, place them on top of a salad, and fill the depression left by the pit with your protein source (egg, cheese, tempeh salad, etc. )
- Add to soup to add thickening and richness. If adding to a warm soup incorporate the pureed flesh just before serving because avocados can turn bitter when cooked.
- Blend into salad dressings for a smooth creamy texture.
- Drizzle slices of avocado with balsamic vinegar for a snack.
The list could go on and on. Did I miss your favorite use of avocado? Do you have a favorite avocado recipe? Do you make the best guacamole ever? Please share your recipes and ideas in the comments section below.