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Avocado

Although the creamy rich Haas avocados are generally available throughout the year, they are the most abundant and at their best during the spring and summer in California and in October in Florida. During the fall and winter months you can find Fuerto, Zutano and Bacon varieties.

The avocado is colloquially known as the Alligator Pear, reflecting its shape and the leather-like appearance of its skin. Avocado is derived from the Aztec work “ahuacalt”.


Health Benefits

Avocados contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help to lower cholesterol. In one study of people with moderately high cholesterol levels, individuals who ate a diet high in avocados showed clear health improvements. After seven days on the diet that included avocados, they had significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, along with an 11% increase in health promoting HDL cholesterol.

Avocados are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Adequate intake of potassium can help to guard against circulatory diseases, like high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Association has authorized a health claim that states: "Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke." One cup of avocado has 23% of the Daily Value for folate, a nutrient important for heart health. To determine the relationship between folate intake and heart disease, researchers followed over 80,000 women for 14 years using dietary questionnaires. They found that women who had higher intakes of dietary folate had a 55% lower risk of having heart attacks or fatal heart disease. Another study showed that individuals who consume folate-rich diets have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke than those who do not consume as much of this vital nutrient.

Inhibits Prostate Cancer Growth

Not only are avocados a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids including oleic acid, which has recently been shown to offer significant protection against breast cancer, but these fruits also contain the highest amount of the carotenoid lutein of all commonly eaten fruits, as well as measurable amounts of related carotenoids (zeazxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) plus significant quantities of tocopherols (vitamin E).

In a laboratory study published in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, an extract of avocado containing these carotenoids and tocopherols inhibited the growth of both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer cells.

But when researchers tried exposing the prostate cancer cells to lutein alone, the single carotenoid did not prevent cancer cell growth and replication. Not only was the whole matrix of carotenoids and tocopherols in avocado necessary for its ability to kill prostate cancer cells, but the researchers also noted that the significant amount of monounsaturated fat in avocado plays an important role. Carotenoids are lipid (fat)-soluble, which means fat must be present to ensure that these bioactive carotenoids will be absorbed into the bloodstream. Just as Nature intends, avocado delivers the whole heath-promoting package.

Description

The avocado is colloquially known as the Alligator Pear, reflecting its shape and the leather-like appeaarance of its skin. Avocado is derived from the Aztec word “ahuacatl.”

Avocados are the fruit from the Persea Americana, a tall evergreen tree that can grow up to 65 feet in height. There are dozens of varieties of avocadoes, which fall into three main categories--Mexican, Guatemalean, and West Indian--which differ in their size, appearance, quality and susceptibility to cold. The most popular type of avocado in the United States is the Haas variety, which has rugged, pebbly brown-black skin. Another common type of avocado is the Fuerte, which is larger than the Haas and has smooth, dark green skin and a more defined pear shape.

Avocados vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 pounds depending upon the variety. The edible portion of the avocado is its yellow-green flesh, which has a luscious, buttery consistency and a subtle nutty flavor. The skin and pit are inedible.

History

Avocados are native to Central and South America and have been cultivated in these regions since 8,000 B.C. In the mid-17th century, they were introduced to Jamaica and spread through the Asian tropical regions in the mid-1800s. Cultivation in United States, specifically in Florida and California, began in the early 20th century. While avocados are now grown in most tropical and subtropical countries, the major commercial producers include the United States (Florida and California), Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.

How to Select and Store

A ripe, ready to eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it was probably tree ripened and will have better flavor. A firmer, less mature fruit can be ripened at home and will be less likely to have bruises. The Haas avocado weighs about 8 ounces on average and has a pebbled dark green or black skin, while the Fuerte avocado has smoother, brighter green skin. Avoid Fuertes with skin that is too light and bright. Florida avocados, which can be as large as 5 pounds, have less fat and calories, but their taste is not as rich as California varieties.

A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week if they have not been sliced.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes
Tips for preparing avocados:

Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Place the halves face down, then peel and slice. If the flesh is too soft to be sliced, just slide a spoon along the inside of the skin and scoop it out. You can prevent the natural darkening of the avocado flesh that occurs with exposure to air by sprinkling with a little lemon juice or vinegar.

A few quick serving ideas:

Use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup.

Add avocado to your favorite creamy tofu dressing recipe to give it an extra richness and beautiful green color.

Mix chopped avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings for a rich-tasting twist on traditional guacamole.

Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.

For an exceptional salad, combine sliced avocado with fennel, oranges and fresh mint.

For a beautiful accompaniment to your favorite Mexican dish, top quartered avocado slices with corn relish and serve with a wedge of lime.

Safety

Avocados contain enzymes called chitinases that can cause allergic reactions in people with latex sensitivities. Studies have shown a strong association between latex allergies and allergic reactions to avocado. The treatment of avocados with ethylene gas to induce ripening can increase the presence of these allergenic enzymes. Individuals with latex allergy should avoid eating avocados in cooked or raw form. However, if you really love avocados, some evidence suggests that cooked forms of this food may be acceptable for allergy-sensitive individuals since cooking can deactivate the enzymes that may be responsible for the cross-reaction with latex.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

Avocado, All Varieties
1.00 cup
235.06 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 29.20 mcg 36.5 2.8 good
dietary fiber 7.30 g 29.2 2.2 good
potassium 874.54 mg 25.0 1.9 good
folate 90.37 mcg 22.6 1.7 good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.41 mg 20.5 1.6 good
vitamin C 11.53 mg 19.2 1.5 good
copper 0.38 mg 19.0 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Avocado

References

  • Bazzano LA, He J, Odgen LG et al. Dietary intake of folate and risk of stroke in US men and women:NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Stroke 2002 May;33(5):1183-9.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Lopez LLedesma R, Frati Munari AC, Hernandez Dominguez BC, et al. Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Arch Med Res 1996 Winter;27(4):519-23.
  • Lu QY, Arteaga JR, Zhang Q, Huerta S, Go VL, Heber D. Inhibition of prostate cancer cell growth by an avocado extract: role of lipid-soluble bioactive substances. J Nutr Biochem. 2005 Jan;16(1):23-30.
  • Perkin JE. The latex and food allergy connection. J Am Diet Assoc 2000 Nov;100(11):1381-4.
  • Rimm EB, et al. Folate and vitamin B6 from diet and supplementation in relation to risk of coronary heart disease among women. JAMA 1998;279(5):359-64.
  • Sanchez-Monge R, Blanco C, Perales AD, et al. Class I chitinases, the panallergens responsible for the latex-fruit syndrome, are induced by ethylene treatment and inactivated by heating. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000 Jul;106(1 Pt 1):190-5.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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