Ingredient Digest: Avocados
Simply put, the avocado is a brilliant ingredient. With their creamy texture and uniquely delicious nutty taste, these nutrient-dense fruits join the ranks of the most beloved produce that Mother Nature has to offer. From the classic guacamole to the more unconventional avocado smoothie or dessert creation, these fruits are used in a wide variety of recipes and are beloved by vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.
While originally grown in South and Central America, the avocado tree has since made its way into California, and is now one of the State’s most cultivated crops. 95% of all U.S. avocados are grown in California, so chances are if you’re eating a domestic avocado, it’s come from California!
Benefits to Health:
Along with tasting amazing, avocados are loaded with over 25 essential nutrients and have an impressive health-boosting resume. They contain fiber, protein, healthy fats, and several beneficial phytochemicals such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein. They are high in oleic acid and potassium, both of which contribute to lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of high blood pressure. It’s no wonder these delicious, nutrient-dense fruits have been proven to improve heart health, promote weight loss, aid in the prevention of a variety of cancers, and improve skin complexion.
While technically considered a high-fat food, avocados contain highly unusual and beneficial fats that are extremely healthy. While many individuals try to follow low-fat diets, what is widely unrecognized is that fat is necessary for your body to function correctly. Not all fats are created equal though, and it’s important to understand which fats are good for your body, and where to get them. A prime example is the avocado. Naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the avocado has been proven to boost heart, brain and eye health. Unlike cholesterol raising saturated fats and trans fats found in animal products and processed foods, the monounsaturated fats found in avocados help control triglycerides in the blood stream, lower blood cholesterol and control diabetes.
Research has also found that because of the good fats found in avocados, consuming them with other nutrient dense foods helps your body absorb vitamins and minerals from those foods more effectively and efficiently. So for example, adding avocado to your salad enables your body to digest and process all of the nutrients you’re ingesting better than if you didn’t add any avocado at all.
Benefits to Skin:
One of the lesser-known benefits of avocado is just how good it is for your skin. Now used as a regular ingredient in organic skincare, avocados are popping up in the ingredient list for facial masks, moisturizers and serums with promises to slow aging and improve dry skin. Sterolins, a protein proven to reduce sun spots and scars, can be found in avocado oil which makes it an ideal ingredient in natural skin moisturizers. Avocado oil also contains collagen, which is naturally occurring in our skin but depletes as we age. Using avocado oil topically boosts our collagen levels, thereby slowing down the aging process and making our skin look younger and more vibrant.
Everyone has tried avocado in some form – mashed into guacamole, chopped in a salad, sliced on top of a burger, or simply cut open and eaten with a spoon. However, these predictable uses of avocado barely brush the surface of all the ways this superfood can be eaten. Conventionally eaten chopped and added to savory dishes such as sandwiches, soups or tacos, avocados can also be incorporated into sauces, pestos, smoothies, and even desserts. With their high fat content, creamy texture, and wonderfully nutty flavor they are the perfect stand in for dairy and are particularly delicious in brownies and frostings.
Take a look at these “10 Deliciously Radical Avocado Recipes” for some inspiration!
While we always recommend buying organic, because of avocados tough skin these fruits are generally less susceptible to absorbing pesticides generally found in conventional farming. If no organic options are available, make sure to look for a domestically grown variety from California — they will be fresher and less traveled than the south American variety.
To check ripeness, pick up an avocado and give it a gentle squeeze. It should give slightly to moderate pressure, but should not be soft or mushy.
The avocado is sometimes referred to as an “alligator pear” because of it’s shape and leather-like texture.