During a recent dinner, my 10-year-old asked the rest of the table what one food we would each take if we were going to be stranded on a deserted island. My 12-year-old yelled “candy” without a moment’s hesitation. Ah well, I hope he never actually strands himself on any island. Like my older son, I didn’t have to think for a second about my answer, but unlike him, I definitely did not pick candy. Hands down, I would take the avocado.
I personally think avocados are delicious. And I am not alone; our country consumes about 4.25 billion a year (53.5 million on Super Bowl Sunday!). In addition to their taste, every serving of avocado offers almost 20 vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins C, A, and E which are antioxidants that help protect cells and tissues, B vitamins which help fight disease and infection, Vitamin K which is important for healthy blood, potassium which supports blood pressure and heart health, lutein which strengthens eyesight, and folate which repairs cells. Avocados have more fiber than most other fruits and vegetables, keeping us full longer and managing blood sugar levels. They deliver the all-important protein, are cholesterol free, and are very low in natural sugar, especially compared to most other fruits.
Avocados have a bad reputation for being high in fat and calories, yet the fats in avocados are mostly monounsaturated, known as a “good fat” that helps to lower cholesterol. These good fats also help us absorb other nutrients, so technically the avocado helps make whatever healthy food we are eating even healthier. Nice work, avocado.
When buying avocados, choose the green, firm ones. Avocados ripen after they are picked, not on the tree, so leave them on the counter for a few days to ripen at home. To speed ripening, place them in a paper bag.
According to the Environmental Working Group, avocados are the cleanest fruit or vegetable, meaning they are “least likely to hold pesticide residues” because of their thick, protective skin. This means that conventional or organic, the avocado is a good choice.
I say, deserted island or tonight’s dinner, the avocado is my choice.
Ways to eat the avocado:
• Perfect first food for baby. Just mash and feed.
• Toss in a salad.
• Puree ¼ avocado with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a creamy salad dressing.
• Top chili or soup with avocado slices.
• Make guacamole, and not just on Super Bowl Sunday; it’s a healthful snack.
• Incorporate into a sandwich or wrap.
• Replace mayonnaise with mashed avocado. Two tablespoons of avocado has 50 calories where mayonnaise has 115, and the added health benefits of the avocado put mayo to shame.
• Puree ½ avocado, 1 cucumber, 1 garlic clove, ½ cup buttermilk, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper into a cold soup.
• Eat right from the skin with a little sea salt and pepper.
• Mix into a fruit salad. It’s a fruit, after all.
• Halve, rub with oil and grill for 1-2 minutes – top with a dash of olive oil, chopped herbs and sea salt.
• Blend ½ avocado, 1 banana, 2 cups frozen peaches, 1 cup orange juice and ½ cup water in a smoothie. Or make up your own recipe - the avocado renders a smoothie creamy.
• Replace oil or butter in brownies and other baked goods with mashed avocado. Two tablespoons of avocado has 50 calories, compared to 204 for butter.
• Slice on grilled fish or a ceviche.
• Use avocado oil in salads and on grilled vegetables.
Peeling for the most nutrition:
The largest cluster of nutrients sit right beneath the skin, so if you scoop an avocado out with a spoon, much of that nutrition gets lost. Try peeling instead.
1. Ensure avocado is ripe.
3. Cut in half lengthwise around the seed.
4. Cut the halves into quarters.
5. Twist the quarters from the seed.
6. Start from the tip and peel the skin off of each segment.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, April 2, 2015.