Add some avo!
Avocados are a fruit, much loved for their creamy texture and taste. They’re mainly used in savoury dishes in Australia, but other countries around the world use avocados in sweet dishes like milkshakes, ice creams and cakes.
Avocado for a healthy weight
Avos are full of healthy, monounsaturated fats. Healthy fats help to control our appetite by releasing hormones in the intestine that signal fullness. So those watching their waistline can still eat avocados.
Avocado for antioxidants
Mother Nature protects the fats in avocados from going rancid too quickly by packing the fruit full of antioxidants. The gorgeous green and yellow colours of avocados come from the natural antioxidant pigments chlorophyll (green) and carotenoids – beta carotene (orange) and lutein and zeaxanthin (yellows). These orange and yellow colours are fat-soluble and play important roles in maintaining eye health.
Avocados are also a source of vitamin E – the fat soluble antioxidant vitamin. Vitamin E needs vitamin C to work properly, so it’s no surprise that avocados are also rich in vitamin C. So avocados have plenty of antioxidants, just like fruits and vegetables.
Avocado to boost absorption of carotenoids
The fats in avocados help our body absorb the carotenoids from other vegetables. Research found adding a small amount of avocado (75-150g) to salads helped to absorb colourful pigments from carrot, lettuce, spinach and other vegetables. The more avocado added the more carotenoids were absorbed.
Avocado for fibre
Like all plant foods, avocados are a good source of fibre with around 4g per 100g or 13% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for adults. Fibre helps to keep our digestive system healthy, and keep us feeling full and satisfied between meals.
Avocado for a healthy heart
Around two thirds of the total fat in avocado is monounsaturated fat. We know that monounsaturated fats are key for a healthy heart. Research has found that as part of a cholesterol lowering diet, avocado can lower total and LDL cholesterol while increasing the HDL cholesterol. Plant sterols and fibre also make avocado a ‘heart smart’ choice. A healthy diet that includes both fruits and vegetables, such as avocado, and a variety of other foods reduces the risk of heart disease.
Avocado for folate
Avocados are an excellent source of folate, which is important for the growth and development of cells. Women of child bearing age need to consume at least 400 micrograms of folate per day at least the month before and three months after conception. A varied diet rich in folate, including avocado, may reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies. A quarter of an avocado has around 60 micrograms of folate, 15% of the recommended amount. So avocado is full of health benefits, and a great food for all ages.
Avocados are available all year round but the peak season is March to September.
Buying, storing and preserving
The most popular varieties of avocado are the Hass which has a pebbly purple-black skin with creamy coloured flesh, and the pear-shaped Shepard which has smooth, thin, green skin. There are many other varieties of avocado that remain green skinned when ripe. The yellow-green flesh has a rich smooth consistency and a nutty flavour.
Choose ripe avocados which are soft but free from dark sunken spots. Avoiding squeezing avocado with your palm however as this will bruise the flesh inside, instead gently press the flesh at the neck of the avocado. A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature with apples or bananas within a few days. Once ripe, they will keep in the fridge for a day or two. Slice around the stone and twist the two halves to separate, and then use a spoon to remove the stone. Sprinkle any exposed cut surface with lemon or lime juices or white vinegar to prevent the flesh from browning, or alternatively press cling wrap firmly on the exposed edge.
Five ways to get more avocados in your day
Ever buy an avocado and use half on sandwiches and salads and then wonder what to do with the other half? Here are five ideas to tempt your taste buds:
- For brekkie – Top your breakfast toast with slices of avocado and scrambled egg.
- In wraps – Add sliced avocado to your lunchtime salad burrito.
- Instead of spreads – Use avo in place of butter or margarine; even try adding it to your mashed potato!
- In a smoothie – Ever thought of using avocado in a milk smoothie? Give it a go, it’s easy being green!
- In cakes – Use in cake recipes as a great dairy substitute
How much should you eat avocado?
Aim to include ¼ of an avocado, or 50g four times a week – that means buying an avocado a week.
For individual advice about healthy eating, talk to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
Source: Dietitian Australia