Avocados are a wonderful nutrient dense fruit grown from a tree that belongs to the Lauraceae family. Avocados contain a big range of vital nutrients but they aren't just healthy for you, they are also amazingly delicious and can be eaten fresh or mashed into baked goods. The two most common varieties of avocados in Australia are Hass and Shepard. Hass are available from May to February (Hass have a smooth and creamy buttery like flesh, oval in shape and have a pebbly skin that changes colour as it ripens, from green to purple-black). Shepard are available from February to May (Shepard has a rich nutty flavour, a longer oval shape with a smooth glossy green skin. The skin colour doesn't change with ripeness).
Nutritional Benefits from Avocados
Avocados contain 25 different vitamins and minerals, that's why they are so healthy for us. Avocados contain:
Vitamins A, B, C, E and K.
18 essential amino acids (our body can't make these, they must come from food).
Phytonutrients (these prevent disease and keep our body working properly).
Avocados contain approximately 20% fat. The fat in avocados is the healthy kind that our bodies need for growth and to perform bodily functions. You can purchase bottled avocado oil from your local supermarket. Avocado oil is one of the healthiest oils to fry or roast with. Recent studies have shown it has a very high smoke point, it can be heated up to 270c before reaching smoking point.
Health Benefits from Avocados
- Heart Health: avocados can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, while increasing the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in your body. Most of the fat in an avocado is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, the same type of fat present in olive oil. In addition they are rich in dietary fibre which also gives cardiovascular benefits.
- Boosts Immune System: the carotene in avocados enhances the function of the immune system. The antioxidants in avocados also aid the immune system.
- Anti-Inflammatory: the phytonutrients, polyphenols (antioxidant properties that helps prevents disease) and flavonoids (helps prevent cell damage) in avocados reduce inflammation.
- Benefits Blood Pressure: avocados contain potassium which aids in controlling blood pressure levels.
- Antioxidants: avocados are rich in antioxidants that aid in fighting free radicals that can cause disease.
- Cancer Protecting: studies have shown that the type of fat in avocado can aid in reducing the risk of cancer.
- Regulates Blood Sugars and Prevents Diabetes: Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes. The monounsaturated fats help regulate blood sugar and can help insulin resistance.
- Eye Health: the carotene in avocados aids in protecting against some eye conditions.
There are so many ways to add avocados to your diet. Check out the recipes below!
Storing your avocados: Once ripened store in the fridge to prevent ripening any further. Cut avocado should be stored in an airtight container to reduce browning. Adding citrus juice (lime or lemon) will help with oxidation and prevent discolouration. When avocados are at their cheapest, why not purchase in bulk and freeze. Cut in half, remove stones and skin, place in a single layer on a lined tray and pop into the freezer. Once frozen firm (approx. 1.5 hours), remove and place in containers or plastic freezer bags, they will keep for up to 5 months. Remove avocados as needed from the freezer, you can use these in smoothies or in baked goods (use fresh avocado for salads and dips).
Avocados are one of my favourite foods, I eat at least half an avocado a day. Enjoy the health benefits of eating and cooking with avocados and its oil. I hope the sample of recipes I've included helps you get creative in the kitchen with this delicious fruit.
By Susan Joy