Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen. The kitchen is ground zero for healthy living. This week we will take a closer look at the beloved avocado. We will wrap things up with a couple amazing recipes for you to try!
The avocado, also known as the “alligator pear,” is a member of the Laurel family and is related to several spices including bay leaf, cinnamon, and sassafras. Many people are aware of its classification as a fruit rather than a vegetable but it may be surprising to learn that botanically speaking, the avocado is actually a berry!
Avocados originated in south-central Mexico between 7000-5000BC.1 It was a very long time before the wild avocado became a cultivated crop. Archaeological evidence has revealed domesticated avocado seeds entombed with mummified Incan remains dating back to 750BC. There is additional evidence that avocados became a cultivated crop in Mexico as early as 500BC.1
Avocados are true nutrient powerhouses. Among the phytonutrients contained within the creamy avocado are phytosterols like beta-sitosterol, carotenoids, and flavonoids like EGCG. They also contain important fats like alpha-linolenic acid and oleic acid. Avocados are also rich in vitamins such as fat-soluble vitamins E, K, and water soluble vitamin C as well as copper, folate, B5, B6, and potassium. In fact, the avocado contains over 1/3 more potassium than a banana.2
Unlike most fruits, avocados are well known for their high fat content with between 71-88% of their total calories coming from fat.3 This is about 20 times the average for most other fruits! While a typical avocado may contain in the neighborhood of 30 grams of fat, about two-thirds of that are the more health-promoting monounsaturated variety. As with most things in nature, not all avocados are alike in terms of fat content. In general, smaller sized avocados are expected to be more oily and higher in fat, similarly, larger size fruits then to be less oily with a lower fat percentage.3
Where do avocados come from?
In the modern marketplace, the countries producing the largest number of avocados include Mexico, the United States, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, China, Guatemala and a number of South American countries including Chile, Peru, and others.3 Mexico in particular, is an especially large exporter of avocados with about 500,000 metric tons of avocado being sent to the US alone each year. Within the U.S., California and Florida are the primary avocado-producing states, with about six times the total number of avocados being produced in California compared to Florida.3
When purchasing avocado to be eaten right away, look for one that is slightly soft and that yields to gentle pressure but is not mushy. There should be no dark sunken spots or cracks in the skin. If the avocado has a slight neck at the top versus being rounded as is typically seen, the avocado may have ripened longer on the tree and as a result may be richer in flavor. Fruits that are firm or hard are not ripe, but can be ripened at home in a few days by placing them in a fruit basket or a paper bag. Adding a banana to the bag will speed the process. Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator uncut for two or three days.
To prepare an avocado, the recommendation from the California Avocado Commission is to use the “nick and peel” method. This method involves first using a knife to cut the avocado lengthwise. Once cut through, twist the halves in opposite directions and separate. Next take each of the halves and slice them lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. Gently remove the pit with your fingers. Slide your thumb under the skin and then using your thumb and index finger, grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, just as you would a banana. This leaves a peeled and ready to use avocado that still contains much of the darker green avocado flesh that is richest in nutrients and antioxidants. To store cut fruit, sprinkle it with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar and place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will prevent it from discoloring.
For a video demonstration of the peeling technique, click here.
How do avocados help my health?
Despite the fact that less than 3% of men and less than 6% of women aged 19 to 50 years in the US consume the number of daily fruit and vegetable servings recommended, research has shown that consuming avocado as part of a healthy can lead to benefits such as improved overall nutritional quality, better nutrient intake, and a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome.4 Additionally, avocado consumption has been reported to attenuate age-related weight gain.5
Avocado also reduces a variety of blood lipids including both triglycerides and LDA levels without affecting HDL levels. It also decreased inflammatory markers int he blood, indicating that inflammatory processes were partially reversed.6 Avocado also boasts cognitive benefits such as improved working memory and problem solving capabilities.7
What medical conditions/symptoms is avocado used for?
- Protect hearing
- Supports cognition
- Promotes healthy cholesterol levels
- Inhibits cancer cell growth
- Prevent age-related weight gain
- Impedes viral replication
When should avocado be avoided?
While avocado is known as a superfood food and is low in pesticide residue, there are specific groups who may not be able to safely enjoy it. Certain people may have allergic reactions to avocado including anaphylaxis. Those with latex or rubber allergies may also react to avocados due to “Latex-fruit syndrome” wherein there is a possibility of a reaction to certain proteins found in avocado that are structurally similar to those found in natural rubber/latex. Do not share avocado with pet birds or with livestock like cows, goats, and sheep. Avocados contain a compound called persin that is harmless to humans and pets like cats and dogs but is highly toxic to our feathered friends and livestock.
Let’s try out avocado with these delicious and nutritious recipes!
Chipotle Coleslaw with Creamy Avocado Dressing
1 small dried chipotle pepper (or 2 t ground chipotle powder)
1 large ripe avocado
4 T lemon juice
1 t raw honey or coconut sugar (optional)
1 1⁄2 t sea salt
1⁄8 t black pepper
1 savoy cabbage, cored and finely shredded (or 1/2 head napa cabbage)
3 carrots, shredded
2 apples, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 c raw cashews, finely chopped
1⁄2 c cilantro, Italian parsley or mint, chopped (optional)
- Place one chipotle pepper, stem and seeds removed, in a blender or coffee grinder and process until powdered. Dried chipotle peppers can be found packaged in most grocery stores.
- Combine avocado, lemon juice, chipotle powder, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and process until smooth. The dressing should have the consistency of mayonnaise. Add extra lemon juice to thin it out if needed.
- In a very large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, apple and onion, mixing well to distribute evenly.
- Toss the vegetable mixture with dressing, massaging the dressing into the vegetables until evenly coated.
- Top salad with a large handful of the chopped nuts.
- Garnish with additional chipotle powder and chopped herbs.
- Add more nuts to the top of each serving.
Thank you to Bastyr University for this amazing recipe.
2 ripe avocados
3 T cacao powder
2–4 T honey, depending on how sweet you like it
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 T almond milk
fresh fruit as a topping – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
Remove the seed and peel from the avocados. Put all the ingredients in a food processor until blended together, scraping the sides. Add a little more honey, to taste, if desired. Process until there are no clumps. Serve with fresh fruit.
Thank you to Living Well Mom for this wonderful recipe!
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