It's no secret that avocados are extremely nutritious, but their health benefits are much more plentiful than most people may be aware of. This fruit is also unbelievably versatile and choc full of nutrients.
Borne of the Persea americana tree, found originally in Central and South America, (specifically Puebla, Mexico, although now they are also cultivated in a few other countries, such as specific regions in Florida, India, Malaysia, Australia, and Rwanda to name a few, avocados need to have tropical and subtropical temperatures in order to sustain their survival. This fruit is also known as the Alligator Pear because of its deep green tone and reptilian-like skin. It ripens once picked from the tree (reaching nearly 70 feet high), and its delicious, smooth texture only enhances the avocado's allure to health practitioners in a variety of disciplines.
Avocado Health Benefits
Phytonutrients (carotenoids), fibre, healthy fats, and B and C vitamins are only a few of the reasons avocados are so beneficial to an individual's core wellness. The monounsaturated fatty acid found in them assists inflammatory disorders, as well as the creation of molecules which help increase our ability to absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as vitamins A, D, and E). The Aztecs also knew this to be a fertility food, and in fact the word avocado comes from an ancient Aztec dialect and literally means "testicle" (ahuácatl). This is on account of its shape, but it may be no coincidence that one of the important nutrients contained in it is potassium, which is vital for heart health and blood flow, obviously necessary for conception. Another nutrient consistent with reproduction and healthy growth of the fetus is folic acid, of which this fruit has a good amount of and may account for another reason for its aptly given name. Avocados also have a high water content, which makes for excellent hydration of the skin, and it also means there's no sugary residue left behind when the fuel from this wonder food is burned.
The following is a list of just a few more key nutrients found in avocados and their health benefits:
- Potassium-aids nerve transmission, alkalinizes blood, assists healthy skin, aids water balance and nerve contraction
- Vitamin K-helps in clot formation (healing cuts, nose bleeds, etc.)
- Vitamin C-assists folic acid uptake, powerful antioxidant, aids bone and tooth formation, aids in wound-healing
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)-important for healthy skin, nerve function, adrenal glands, antibody formation, and energy conversion
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)-aids in B12 absorption, digestion, nervous system balance (sodium/potassium balance in kidneys), and red blood cell production
- Folate-helps digestion (with hydrochloric acid production), reproduction, growth, appetite, protein metabolism, and depression
- Carotenoids-aids inflammation (ex. Osteo and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Fiber-aids in toxic elimination, alleviates constipation
How to Use Avocados
Avocados need to be used at just the right time. They need to be ripe and soft enough to easily slice open, but not so soft that their flesh turns brown. They ripen within a few days of having been picked off the tree, and if bought when still too hard, placing them in a brown paper back will speed up the ripening process. They will start to brown once they are sliced open, so it's best to keep it intact until ready to use. Once it is ripe, it can be put in the fridge for a few days (depending on its freshness). It's a good idea to squeeze some lemon juice on the unused portion to keep browning (as a result of oxidation) from occurring.
The great thing about this food is how it can be eaten in accompaniment with other things or stand on its own; be added to main dishes or used in a dessert. They are an effortless, quick item that can be included in a variety of dishes. Some ideas are:
- Used in a breakfast smoothie in substitution for banana for richness in flavour and texture
- Eaten plain with a spoon and a dollop of either cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
- Mashed and used as guacamole dip with innumerable possibilities of spices and herbs (one could add cayenne, garlic, lemon/lime, turmeric, tomatoes, etc.)
- Baked into desserts for a rich, creamy treat
- Sliced into salads, over rice dishes, or in sandwiches (or mash and use as sandwich, cracker spread)
Avocados are nutrient dense and delightfully tasty. From heart health to skin health, their simplicity offers any type of cook, whether it be one pressed for time or looking to create a new masterpiece, so many options. Including this in a weekly meal plan will have everyone's cells singing for joy from the inside out.
References:http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avocado#Harvest_and_postharvestDr. Jensen's Guide to Body Chemistry & Nutrition, Keat's Publishing, 2000