While most of us think of dark leafy greens as superstars for eye health, the nutrient dense avocado is not to be ignored. Avocados may seem like hipster food, but this fruit can do much more than looking good on Instagram photos. Avocados, known for their soft, creamy consistency and a taste that goes with almost anything, have evolved increasingly widespread in the last decade.
In addition to its star status in the kitchen, avocados also contain fats that are healthy for the heart and micro-nutrients such as potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and magnesium.
The creamy avocado is not just an excellent ingredient to add to the salad or spread on the breakfast sandwich. Studies show that it positively affects everything from heart disease and diabetes to weight loss and hair quality.
Some of the key health benefits of eating this, yes, fruit, are:
Rich in Antioxidants
“Among the twenty most commonly eaten fruits, avocado ranks number one for vitamin E, lutein, glutathione and beta-sitosterol,” writes ophthalmologist and author of SuperFoods HealthStyle, Steven G. Pratt. Lutein is one of two carotenoids that form the macular pigment found in the center of the retina. High concentrations of lutein are also found in the lens of the eye, Higher intake of lutein and glutathione are associated with reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Glutathione, called by some experts as the Mother of All Antioxidants, fights oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Healthy Source of other Nutrients
Avocados are also a rich source of the minerals magnesium and potassium as well as other vitamins such as folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin K.
Healthy Anti-inflammatory Monounsaturated Fat
The type of fat we consume can ...
contribute to inflammation, or
provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Healthy fat is necessary for many body functions and for healthy cell membranes. The three types of fat are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated fats are plant based fats found in olives, flaxseed, walnuts and avocados. Avocados are rich in oleic acid which is a type of monounsaturated fat. “In conclusion, oleic acid could be reported as an anti-inflammatory fatty acid playing a role in the activation of different pathways of immune competent cells.”
Boosts Absorption of Fat Soluble Nutrients
Many nutrients require some fat to be absorbed by the body. Nutrients like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein all require some fat for the body to reap the benefits of these antioxidants. Include some chunks of avocado in your salad or saute your vegetables in some avocado oil so that all of the fat soluble vitamins and carotenoids will be utilized by the body.
Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
Eating more avocados can be incredibly effective to help promote cardiovascular health. A study published in 2020 shows that one avocado a day can protect the heart by reducing the risk of oxidative stress leading to chronic inflammation.
Avocado fiber, fatty acids, and nutrients together lower the so-called bad cholesterol LDL levels. At the same time, it raises the levels of the good cholesterol HDL, regulates blood sugar levels and counteracts inflammation in the body.
On your next visit to the grocery store be sure to add a bag of avocados to your cart and add them to your salad, blend them in your green smoothie, spread them on your toast, or top your soup with several slices.
Avocados and Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease
Aging is the major risk factor for neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. A large body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress is involved in the patho-physiology of these diseases.
Oxidative stress can induce neuronal damages and modulate intra-cellular signaling, ultimately leading to neuronal death by apoptosis or necrosis. There is evidence for increased oxidative damage to macro-molecules in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
Antioxidants have been used for their effectiveness in reducing these deleterious effects and neuronal death in many in vitro and in vivo studies. The critical review results indicate that compounds in avocado are unique antioxidants, preferentially suppressing radical generation, and thus may be promising as effective neuro-preventive agents.
Avocados have a high content of phyto-chemicals, especially antioxidants with potential neuro-protective effect. The diverse array of bio-active nutrients present in avocado plays a pivotal role in the prevention and cure of various neuro-degenerative diseases.
There are hundreds of types of avocados, but seven avocado varieties are grown commercially in California. Many varieties are available as certified organic fruit.
When Are Avocados in Season?
Avocados are everywhere today. During winter months, the avocado prices drop, and we welcome that very much.
Avocado season in California runs from Spring to early winter. The Hass variety accounts for 95 percent of the total crop each year. The Southern California Hass Avocado groves produce natural, velvety, creamy, delicious avocados. The soil is ideal; there is proper drainage, abundant sunshine and cool ocean breezes all year round.
In Mexico, the season essentially lasts all year long, since their trees bloom and produce fruit four times every year.
Avocado season in South Africa runs from June through October.
In Australia avocado season runs from March through January.
New Zealand produces avocados for export from August through March but has them available domestically year-round.
Avocado Ripeness Indicators
Generally, the pebbly skin darkens a bit as it ripens and begins to yield to gentle pressure when squeezed gently in the palm of your hand. Note: Color alone is not always the best indicator of ripeness , as some avocado varieties retain their light-green skin even when ripe!
The perfect avocado texture is silky smooth and the flavor is rich and nutty.
How To Ripen Avocados
To speed up the process of ripening avocados, place the fruit in a paper bag and store it at room temperature (65 F to 75 F) until ready to eat (usually two to five days). Including an apple or a kiwi fruit in the bag accelerates the process, because these fruits give off ethylene, a natural hormone that promotes ripening. When the avocados yield to gentle pressure, they are ready. Tip: The more apples or kiwi fruit you add, the quicker your avocados will ripen.
Soft, ripe fruit can be refrigerated until it is eaten and should last for at least two more days. Refrigerate only ripe or soft avocados.
Do not use microwave to accelerate the ripening process!
How To Cut Avocados Safely?
Start with a ripe avocado on a cutting board and cut it lengthwise around the seed. We recommend cutting into the avocado until the knife hits the seed, then rotating the avocado with one hand while holding the knife horizontally in the other hand.
Turn the avocado by a quarter and cut it in half lengthwise again
Rotate the avocado halves in your hands and separate the quarters
Remove the seed by pulling it out gently with your fingertips Tip: Using this cutting method eliminates the other common seed-extraction method (striking the seed with a knife and twisting), which requires some skill and is not recommended
Peel the fruit by sliding your thumb under the skin and peeling it back
Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator uncut for two or three days. To store cut fruit, sprinkle it with lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar, wrap tightly it in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container, and then refrigerate it. This will prevent it from discoloring.