Ahh, The Avocado. With its soft, creamy texture its no wonder this small fruit is often referred to as “Nature’s Mayonnaise”. Hailing from one of three main lineages (West Indian, Guatemalan, or Mexican), these little green fruits boast a whopping 20-25 grams of fat per serving accounting for over 80% of its total caloric value.
Thanks to this high fat and nutrient content, avocados offer a wide range of health benefits, including blood sugar control and insulin regulation, satiety and weight management and a decreased overall risk of inflammation in the body. Despite its unfavourable ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats (10:1 in favour of Omega 6), avocados contain predominantly more monounsaturated fats (including oleic acid). The monounsaturated fats account for 68% of the fat in one avocado and play an important role in heart-related health benefits. The fat content is also responsible for providing phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits for the body, specifically the cardiovascular system.
It’s clear that aside from being a tasty addition to your dish, avocado packs a serious nutritious punch. Here are a few tips and trick to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck:
Picking the Prime Avocado
Sometimes that massive pile of avocados at the store can be intimidating, piled 20 high in 50 shades of green. If you’re lucky, you’ll have timed your grocery shop just right to pick up a couple perfectly ripe avocados. Here’s how you’ll know if you’ve hit the jackpot:
- You know your avocado is ripe for the picking when it is slightly soft to the touch. Don’t rely on the darkness of the skin to determine ripeness, go by touch. Hold it in your palm and press gently - a ripe avocado will yield slightly to pressure without feeling too squishy.
- Make sure there are no dark sunken bruises or cracks in the skin... chances are the inside won’t be in great shape either!
- Look for one with a slight neck rather than a rounded top, as it may have ripened on the tree longer and therefore have a richer flavour.
- As a general rule, smaller sized avocado’s tend to be more oil and higher in fat where as the larger fruits have a lower oil and fat content.
The "Peel and Nick" Technique
It turns out that the greatest concentration of carotenoids (nutritious plant pigments) is contained in the dark green fruit closest to its skin. By peeling the avocado you ensure you don’t miss out on all the nutritional benefits that you would be by scooping or cutting. Plus, you’ll be at lower risk of experiencing a casualty in the kitchen, as it's a much safer alternative to using a knife to remove the seed.
- After confirming that your avocado is ripe and ready to go, carefully cut the avocado in half length wise around the seed.
- Rotate the avocado and cut lengthwise again so you have 4 equal sized quarters that you can separate and remove from the seed.
- Now for the main event! Starting from the tip, carefully nick and peel each segment so you are left with only the flesh. Discard the peel and the pit.
Eating avocado in its raw, unheated form is best to minimize damage to the avocado’s fats and preserve all of its health benefits.
- For an added nutrient punch, combine avocado with carotenoid rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy greens. The fat content of the avocado increases the absorption of carotenoids into cells by two to six times, as well as converting specific carotenoids (beta-carotene) into active vitamin A.
- Add a few slices to to accompany your eggs in the morning, sprinkle some cubes atop your salad at lunch, and even slap some on your burger for dinner. Heck, you can even use avocado to make a tasty treat for dessert!
Storage and Saving
Can’t polish it all off in one sitting? On a budget with no grocery store sale specials? No problem! Here are a few tips to make your avocado rations last all week long.
- Don’t throw ‘em in the fridge til they’re ripe! You can ripen a firm avocado in a paper bag or fruit basket at room temperature. If you aren’t ready to eat it yet and don’t want it to go past its prime, a ripe avocado can be refrigerated for up to a week.
- If you’re storing a pre-sliced avocado, keep it from going brown by sprinkling the exposed flesh with some lemon juice and storing it in a glass contained (or you can get one of these handy-dandy devices!)
For all of you avocado lovers out there, go forth and relish in your newfound knowledge of this beloved fruit! And for all you taste and texture critics, I hope this post has given you some reason to get out there and give our green little friends another chance at consumption.
Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. The information in this post is intended for education purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with your primary care physician. For more information or individualized treatment, contact Dr. Crape for a consultation here.
- Fulgoni V, Dreher M, and Davenport A. Contribution of Avocados to the Diets of U. S. Adults: NHANES, 2001-2006. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 9, Supplement, September 2010, Page A30.
- Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, and Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013 Jan 2;12:1. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
- Kopec RE, Cooperstone JL, Schweiggert RM, et al. Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitamin A absorption and conversion from a novel high-β-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. J Nutr. 2014 Aug;144(8):1158-66.
- Wien M, Haddad E, Oda K, et al. A randomized crossover study to evaluate the effect of Hass avocado intake on post-ingestive satiety, glucose and insulin levels, and subsequent energy intake in overweight adults. Nutr J. 2013 Nov 27;12:155.