Avocados are distinct fruits with high fat content and calories. Subtly flavorful yet buttery, they are amongst the most popular fruits having nutrition profile similar to that of some edible nuts and seeds.
Some of the common names for this staple fruit are alligator pear, aguacate, butter pear etc.
Botanically, the fruit belongs to the family of lauraceae, the family that also includes some unusual members like bay laurel, cinnamon etc. Scientific name is persea americana.
Avocados are medium sized evergreen trees of about 20-30 feet in height with large green leaves. The tree prefers fertile soil with high moisture content to flourish. Small light green flowers appear during winter. After about 8-10 months later, hundreds of pear shaped green color fruits appear on the tree.
Avocados, like bananas, mature on the tree but ripen only after their harvest. Once Ripen, they turn dark green or deep purple and yield to gentle pressure. Inside, cream color flesh has butter-like consistency with bland taste yet pleasant aroma. The fruit features centrally placed single brown color seed. On an average, each fruit weighs about 300-700 g, although heavier avocados are quite common in the markets.
Health benefits of avocado
- Avocados, like olives, are high in mono-unsaturated fats and calories. However, they are very rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and packed with numerous health benefiting plant nutrients.
- Their creamy pulp is very rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids as well as omega-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids help lower LDL or bad cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol, thereby, prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- They are very good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. 100 g fruit provides 6.7 g or about 18% of recommended daily intake. Dietary fibers help lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent constipation.
- In addition, the fruit, like persimmons, contain high concentration of tannin. Tannin, a poly-phenolic compound, which was once labeled as anti-nutritional agent is in-fact, has beneficial anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and anti-oxidant properties.
- Its flesh contains many health promoting flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta and alpha carotenes in small amounts. Together, these compounds act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- They are also good in many health-benefiting vitamins. Vitamin A, E, and K are especially concentrated in its creamy pulp.
- Avocados also excellent sources of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has cardiac-protective role as well. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron and copper are required in the production of red blood cells.
- Fresh avocado pear is a very rich source of potassium. 100 g of fruit provides 485 mg or about 10% of daily-required levels. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids where it helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure, countering bad effects of sodium.
Selection and storage
Avocados are readily available in the markets year around. Buy medium size, fully ripe fruit with pleasant aroma. The fruit that is ready to eat should yield to pressure when gently squeezed.
Avoid very hard fruits as they take very long time to ripen properly. Also, look carefully for any surface cuts, blemishes, and spots. Avoid excessively ripen ones as their pulp is rather mushy and has little, if any, flavor.
Once at home, store avocado in cool place. Unripe fruits usually placed in a paper wrap with a banana or apple in order to speed up ripening.
Preparation and Serving methods
Ripe avocado has delicate nutty flavor and butter like in taste. To eat, cut the fruit lengthwise at its center all the way around the seed. Then rotate or twist the two halves in opposite directions and gently pull apart. Remove the seed using spoon. Gently peel the skin with your fingers starting from stem end. Cut the pulp in to desired cubes.
Sprinkle or rinse the cut sections in lemon juice to prevent enzymatic brown discoloration until ready to use.
Here are some serving tips:
- In many parts of Central America, the fruit is eaten as it is with some added pepper powder, limejuice, and salt.
- The fruit sections or cubes are added to vegetable/fruit salads, salsa etc.
- Mashed avocado fillings used to make Mexican polenta pancakes. Guacamole is a favorite avocado based Mexican dip.
- Similarly, guasacaca is Venezuelan variant prepared using vinegar instead of lemon juice.
- Mashed fruit may be mixed with icecreams, shakes, and fruit juices.
Raw unripe avocados concentrated with tannins. High tannin content makes them bitter and unappetizing. Very high levels of tannins in the food prevent minerals like iron, calcium and phosphorus and vitamins from absorption in the gut.
Although very rare, avocados may result in allergic symptoms in some latex-sensitive persons. The symptoms may include itching in the throat, hives, runny nose, breathlessness etc. Often the symptoms are mild and self-limiting.
Here are some of my healthy recipes that feature avocado:
- Avocado-Buttermilk Soup with Crab Salad
- Avocado Dip
- Chili-Spiced Chicken Soup with Stoplight Peppers and Avocado Relish
Source : www.nutrition-and-you.com