Talk about forbidden fruits: For too long, the avocado has been banished to the list of “fatty” foods to avoid. While it is true that avocados are high in fat, it is the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that nutrition experts say is essential to a proper diet. What’s more, unlike other fat-dense foods, this green fruit contains no cholesterol.
Late winter and early spring are the time when a lot of different varieties of avocados come to market across the United States. Although Hass avocados are the most common, there are a total of 500 other varieties, including the Bacon, Pinkerton, Reed and Gwen.
Health Benefits. In addition to being the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat, avocados provide more than 25 essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins B and E and folic acid. Ounce for ounce, an avocado packs in more potassium than a banana. Avocados are also loaded with beneficial phytochemicals, such as lutein, which may help prevent many chronic diseases.
Selecting the Fruit. Avocados don’t ripen until picked, so fresh ones will be as hard as rocks. Avoid buying avocados that have dark blemishes on the skin. Some avocados are ripe when the skin is nearly black and the fruit yields to pressure. However, certain varieties retain a light-green skin and do not darken. Some experts suggest buying unripe avocados because ripe ones tend to bruise easily in the market. To ripen avocados at home, place them in a brown paper bag with an apple for several days.
Using Avocados. Wash the fruit before slicing it. When ripe, the skin should peel off easily. Avocados are usually eaten raw and make great additions to salads (see recipe on page 82), soups or sandwiches. Mashed avocado, or guacamole, is a wonderful dip in place of salsa; just add some lime or lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, cilantro and salt. To keep avocados after they have been cut open, leave the pit in the bowl, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the mixture, wrap securely and refrigerate. Ripe fruit can be refrigerated for 2–3 days.
Sources: California Avocado
Information Bureau; California
Avocado Commission; March 2005