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What Are Avocados And Why Are They So Good For Us?

Avocados, creamy, delicious and healthy. It's not surprising that Avocados have become a popular staple in kitchens across the globe, finding their way into burritos, dips, smoothies and even deserts. 

But what are Avocados? Where did they come from? What makes them so rich and creamy? Why are they so good for us? If you love Avocados and have been curious about any of these things, this is the blog for you!

What Are Avocados And Where Did They Come From?

Avocados (Persea americana) are the fruit, more specifically the berry, of an evergreen tree in the Laurel family. They are also sometimes called 'Alligator Pears,' most likely due to their hard, almost scaly skin. Despite their tough skin, they are loved for their rich and creamy, light green interior. Their prized texture comes from their unusually high fat content, for a fruit. 

Avocados are originally from Central America, so it's not surprising that they are traditionally used in Mexican dishes like guacamole, but as they have risen in popularity, they have found their way into cuisine all over the world. 

They are typically grown in Mediterranean climates, with Mexico and California being two of the largest producers of Avocadoes globally. As they were domesticated and cultivated, a number of distinct varieties of Avocadoes have been crafted, but they are generally pear or egg shaped, with tough skin and rich oily innards and packed full of nutrients. 

Avocado Nutrition

Avocados contain 20 vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients making them nutrient dense. Avocadoes are so nutritious that they are often considered a superfood and an excellent source of healthy fats. In fact, over half of their fat content comes from monounsaturated fat. They also contain no cholesterol.

Avocado Preparation And Use

  • Choosing Avocadoes To Purchase: If you want to eat it immediately, choose an avocado with dark green to black skin that has some give when pressed. If you plan to wait a few days to eat it, choose a lighter green avocado that is more firm to the touch. Avoid purchasing avocadoes that are shriveled or mushy, as they are overripe and not very pleasant to eat.
  • Ripening: Once purchased, they will often ripen in a few days. If you would prefer to speed up the ripening process, place them in a small brown paper bag. You can also add a banana to the bag for even quicker results (this works for many other fruits as well).
  • Saving For Later: If you don't finish your avocado in one sitting and want to save it for later, just cover its flesh with a little lime or lemon juice, or wrap it up and refrigerate to prevent oxidation. You can also store them in a sealed container with some sliced onion to help it keep a little longer. Many people also freeze ripe (peeled) avocadoes for later use. 
  • Use: Avocadoes can be used or added to many meals to make them creamier and provide you with some healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. They can easily be made into a meal themselves, by turning them into the crowd favorite, guacamole. Or, they can also be sliced and added to a salad or sandwich. You can make a tasty breakfast by slicing an adding to toast. Add them to smoothies to make them creamier. They can even be used in place of butter for cooking and baking using a 1:1 ratio. 

Avocadoes And Health

The amazing texture of Avocadoes come from their high fat content, and so do many of their health benefiting properties (they are part of the Mediterranean diet). Here is a list of some of the many ways adding avacadoes into your diet can be beneficial:

  • Cardiovascular Health: Since they are high in healthy fats (their main type of monounsaturated fat comes from oleic acid, which is also the main fatty acid in olive oil) and contain no cholesterol, they are recognized as being good for cardiovascular health.
  • Cognitive Function and Depression: Their healthy fats also make them good for cognitive function and new research suggests that they might even help with depression.
  • Skin, Hair and Nail Health: These good fats, along with the vitamin E they provide, also makes them great for healthy skin, hair and nails.
  • Digestion and Gut Health: In addition to their high fat content, they are also low in carbohydrates, as most of their carbohydrates are fiber, which the human body cannot digest. Due to this, they are good for gut health and digestion.
  • Diabetes: For all the same reasons, they are low on the glycemic index, making them a good food for diabetic people.
  • Prebiotic: One really interesting thing about Avocadoes is that their fiber is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods that help pave the way for beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Immune Function: The vitamins they provide also make them helpful for immune function (especially Vitamin C).
  • Vegetarian Diets: They are good for vegetarians, who's diets often lack in B vitamins.
  • Electrolytes Balance, Enzymes, Blood and Bones: Avocadoes are good for proper electrolyte balance, in assisting enzymes and for bone and blood health because they contain Vitamin K and the minerals potassium and magnesium.
  • Eye Health: Avocadoes can help protect vision and eye health because of their carotenoids.
  • Inflammation: Their Vitamin E content can also help limit or prevent inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to many other diseases. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women need a lot of folate, which Avocadoes are high in. 

Are Avocadoes All Good?

Avocadoes are undoubtedly a healthy food, some even go as far as to call them a superfood, but are they pure goodness? Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. Even too much of a good thing can have drawbacks. So, what are some of the drawbacks of Avocadoes?

  • High Calorie/Weigh Gain: One of the main drawbacks of Avocadoes is the very same thing that makes them so good for us, their high fat content. Even though they are packed full of healthy fats, even too much of a good thing is bad. Fats provide a lot of calories and can contribute to weight gain, so pay attention to serving size, if that is a concern.
  • Potentially Biased Research: Although Avocadoes certainly have many health benefits, much of the research has been funded by the Avocado industry itself, making the information dubious at best. It is always recommended to get your health information from reputable sources like the Harvard School of Public Health and to look at who funded the research. 
  • Allergies: Many people who are allergic to latex are also allergic to Avocadoes, so they should obviously avoid them. Many species of pets are also allergic to Avocadoes, some even deathly allergic, so it is best to not share Avocadoes with our four legged friends.
  • Blood Pressure: This one can be good or bad, depending on your personal health and blood pressure needs.  Avocadoes have high levels of Vitamin K, which can impact blood pressure. People on blood thinners may want to consult the appropriate health care professional about their Avocado consumption.
  • Environmental Concerns: Avocadoes are one of the most resource intensive fruits that are commercially grown because of their heavy water consumption. They also are a net carbon crop, meaning they produce more carbon than they use during their growth. There are additional issues of deforestation, land rights and it is expected that climate change will put increasing stress on the production of Avocadoes in the future. 

 

Final Thoughts

Avocadoes, the rich fruit making their way into all manner of foods, from savory to sweet. They are healthy and easy to add to any number of dishes. They are great for skin, cognitive function, immune system health, bones, blood, vision and for vegetarians that might be lacking in B vitamins. Their healthy properties can be beneficial to almost everyone and a great way to add nutrition into your diet. However, be mindful of their high calorie content and do not feed them to your pets. Also, be careful if you are allergic to latex or on blood thinners. 

*This blog is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.