Avocados are often labelled "taboo" because of their high fat content. It's true that avocados do contain a fair amount of fat, but the majority of it is the heart-healthy kind, namely mono- and polyunsaturated. The creamier the flesh of the avocado is, the higher the fat content.
One half-cup of mashed avocado has 192 calories and 18 grams of fat. However, only 2.4 grams of fat are saturated, with 13.5 grams coming from monounsaturated polyunsaturated fat. One half-cup of mashed avocado also delivers 15% of your daily vitamin E, 18% of folate and 34% for panthothenic acid. You also get small amounts of iron and zinc as well as a healthy 8 grams of dietary fibre.
Avocado is definitely a food we should be including in our diets. While they do supply good fat, avocados are still relatively high calories. If you eat a whole avocado each day to get heart-healthy fats, you'll need to downsize your calories elsewhere to compensate.
Known for its rich, buttery texture and mild, faintly nutlike flavour, the avocado was known early on as alligator pear. This is probably due to the pebbly textured skin of some varieties. The two most widely available avocado varieties are the pebbly textured black Haas and the green Fuerte, which has a thin, smooth skin. Depending on the variety, avocados can weigh up to 4 pounds! Some varieties are rounded while others are more of a teardrop shape.
Here are just a few of the avocado varieties available today. Keep in mind that some of these may only be available in regions where avocados are grown such as California and Florida.
Bacon - a green-skinned variety of medium size and light taste. The skin is smooth, green and thin. The flesh is yellow-green. Available late fall into spring.
Fuerte - an established favourite, the Fuerte is a high-quality avocado, with a smooth, thin green skin. It is medium in size and the flesh is creamy and pale green. Available late fall through spring.
Gwen - is a plump, rounded fruit that ranges from medium to large in size. Its green skin is pebbly and thick but still pliable. The flesh is gold-green and creamy. Available late winter through summer.
Haas - is the only avocado available year-round. It is known for its skin that turns from green to purplish-black when it is ripe. Size ranges from medium to large. It is oval in shape and the skin is pebbly and thick but pliable. The flesh is pale green with a creamy texture.
For more varieties visit the California Avocado Commission website at http://www.avocado.org
Select avocados that are heavy for their size and have unblemished skins. If an avocado yields slightly to gentle pressure then it will be ripe enough to use right away. If it is rock hard, it will need a few days to ripen. If pressing an avocado leaves a small dent then it will still be suitable for dips and other recipes that require mashed avocado. Avoid avocados that are very soft with large dents as this means that the fruit is overripe and the flesh will not be edible.
Ripe whole avocados should be stored in the refrigerator and used within two to three days.
If you have leftover avocado, mash the remaining fruit, add 1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice per half of mashed avocado and store in an airtight container. Lay plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture before putting on the lid. Stored this way, mashed avocado should be fine for up to two days.
Unripe or hard avocados will ripen at room temperature in about 3 to 6 days. To speed up the process, place several avocados together in a paper bag. You can add a tomato if you would like to encourage even faster ripening.
You can also freeze mashed avocado in an airtight container for up to two months. Add lemon or lime juice and other seasonings, if desired, before freezing.
Cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Twist the halves in opposite directions to separate them. Carefully slip a spoon between the seed and the fruit and work the seed out. Or you can use a sharp chef's knife to carefully whack the seed so that the knife is solidly stuck in it, and then pull the seed out. Slip a spoon between the skin and the fruit and scoop away from the peel.
Once avocado flesh is cut and exposed to the air it tends to take on an unappealing grayish colour. Adding fresh lemon or lime juice will help prevent the discoloration. Or, if possible, you can wait until the very last minute to add the avocado to the dish you are making.
When many of us think avocado we immediately think guacamole! True, avocado is the essential ingredient in this creamy concoction but that's not all it's good for. It is delicious on its own, sprinkled with a little fresh lemon or lime juice, or in the myriad recipes that call for its creamy green flesh. Avocado is great for soups, salads, pizza, on the grill, in sandwiches, with eggs and so on ...
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Avocados:
- Avocado and eggs are perfect partners for omelettes or frittatas or when paired in breakfast wraps.
- Sprinkle diced avocado over scrambled eggs instead of cheese.
- Try the recipe for an Avocado Smoothie.
- Spread mashed avocado on whole wheat toast or bagels instead of butter or margarine.
- Include avocado in your green or fruit salad.
- Spread your wrap with mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise.
- Fill egg white halves with guacamole instead of the usual yolk and mayo mixture.
- Top soups with diced avocado.
- Avocado and seafood such as crabmeat ans shrimp, make a delicious sandwich filling or salad topping. Try this recipe!
- Serve grilled avocado with feta cheese on pizza instead of pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Try this delicous recipe.
- Toss salad with avocado slices and balsamic vinegar instead of a creamy dressing.
- Try an avocado salsa as a condiment or side dish to grilled chicken or fish.
- Mash potatoes with avocado instead of sour cream or butter.
- Try avocado soup for something different. Here's a recipe.
- Pair avocado with pasta.
- Dip into guacamole with baked tortilla chips. Or try baked whole-wheat pita triangles.
- A small dish of cubed avocado, seasoned with lemon or lime juice and salt makes a delicious and creamy snack.
- Have pieces of fresh fruit accompanied by a sweet avocado dip.
Did You Know?
- Tiny Fuerte cocktail avocados are the size of a small gherkin and are called avocaditos.
- Avocados are actually a fruit not a vegetable.
For More Information:
- California Avocado Commission - www.avocado.org
- Carpinteria Valley Avocado Festival - http://www.avofest.com
- Produce Pete - http://www.producepete.com/shows/avocado.html