Updated: Mar 23, 2021
What is it about the avocado that makes it such a special food? It’s simple; these delicious pulpy fruits are packed with nearly 20 essential nutrients that include vitamins, minerals and many phytonutrients (Conde Nast, 2020). Not only are they highly nutritious, they are also an unbelievably versatile food that can be used in sweet and savoury dishes.
There has been quite a lot of negative press coverage focussing on the fat content of avocados. It is true that up to 85% of the calories in an avocado come from its fat. However, research has shown the most of the fats from this amazing fruit come from monounsaturated fats and plant phytosterols which actually have been shown to help reduce harmful LDL and promote healthy HDL levels of cholesterol in the blood and reduce the impact of free radicals.
Despite the fact that the avocado is green, it contains many carotenoids which contain beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. These combine with Vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium, zinc, omega three fatty acids and phytosterols in a unique way to help the body to fight the painful symptoms such arthritis. Not only do avocados contain these anti-inflammatory properties, research has shown that they can help inhibit the production of inflammatory compounds that are produced in the body (George Matalan Foundation, 2020).
A key component of the avocado is oleic acid, an important fatty acid that supports heart health and the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. Another amazing fact about avocados is that they improve the absorption of nutrients found in other foods, particularly carotenoids, which need the presence of fat to be absorbed. Our bodies absorb more of the nutrients from a salad with leafy greens and carrots when eaten with an avocado than one eaten without this wholesome fruit.
The vitamins C, E and carotenoids in avocados play an important role in protecting the skin from the effects of ageing, by improving moisture retention in the epidermis; reducing redness and irritation in the skin; helping build collagen and elastin and protecting the skin from sun damage.
For those involved in sport or focussing on weight management, the monounsaturated fats in avocados provide an excellent source of slow burning energy rather than being stored as fat. Avocados are an important food source in helping us reduce our cravings for other foods as they tend to make us feel fuller for longer thereby reducing our hunger. However avoid eating too many as their satiety factor may mean that you will not eat sufficient range of foods to ensure a full balance of nutrients.
Avocados are a rich source of both soluble and non-soluble fibre. Soluble fibre helps us to feel fuller for longer and the non-soluble fibre contributes to bulking our faeces, so we are far less likely to suffer constipation.
Magnesium, manganese and phosphorous are found in avocados and these all play a key role in promoting stronger bones and healthy teeth.
When eating avocados, it is important to keep as much of the dark green flesh as possible, so we should not peel them with a knife. It is far better to peel and avocado in a manner similar to peeling a banana. Cut the avocado in half and twist it so that the halves come apart. After this, remove the pip. At this point it is easy to take the skin from the narrow end and peel it off the fruit with the edge of a knife. This method retains as much of the dark green flesh as possible, which is the most nutrient dense part of the pulp. Eat the avocado as soon as possible after peeling to prevent oxidisation of the fruit which will turn it brown.
There are many cultivars of avocado, the most common being the Haas. Each cultivar presents differently in shape, size, colour and texture. The most nutrient rich avocados will be the ones that have matured on the tree for longer. Avocados can be easily be ripened at home by storing them in a dark dry space such as in a brown paper bag. To speed up the ripening process, pop an apple or a banana in with the avocado as both of these fruits release ethylene gas which promotes ripening.
Try substituting avocado for some of the butter when baking foods such as cakes and muffins or try adding some avocado into a shake or smoothie for an added nutritional boost. In many countries, people simply spread it onto bread as a sandwich spread or as a dressing instead of mayonnaise and omit the butter as it will add moistness on its own.
Smashed avocados or guacamole are brilliant when served with corn chips, a zingy tomato salsa and a vegan crème fraîche. This is a great recipe to introduce young children to cooking.
Avocados can be added to sushi as a replacement for the fish in vegan sushi. There is an amazing array of chilled soups that can be nutritionally enhanced by the inclusion of avocados, as there are salads. The list is almost endless, but have a go at the avocado, orange and almond salad, influenced by the colours and flavours of Spain.
A fine way to serve an avocado is in the form of desserts. There are so may options in which you can add avocados, such as an avocado and chocolate mousse or avocado and lime cheesecake.
Across the globe, people have found countless ways to add avocados to sweet and savoury dishes. The versatility of this fruit makes it a food that can easily be “disguised” for the fussy eaters amongst us as it is not a strong flavoured food.
So, go on, give this awesome fruit a go and find ways to eat it on a regular basis to enhance your health and wellbeing.