Everyone's favorite toast topper has surged in popularity in recent years. No longer thought of as simply the gatekeeper to guacamole, this multifaceted fruit is now used in baked goods, sauces, smoothies, ice cream, and even melded into edible roses. Beyond the humble avocado's culinary versatility, this creamy fruit is also brimming with nutritious virtue. Here, we explain why avocados are deserving of the health halo they have obtained, and how consumers can put them to delicious use in the kitchen.
History of the Avocado
The avocado tree originated in south-central Mexico and dates back at least 10,000 years. Avocados are part of the flowering plant family Lauraceae and are actually considered large berries with a single seed. When shopping, it's best to buy avocados slightly firm with the stem intact. Since they ripen off the tree, the stem helps prevent oxygen from getting into the fruit and causing discoloration and softening of the flesh. Allow avocados to ripen on the counter until they give lightly when pressed at the top and bottom. The ripening process can be slowed down by refrigeration.
Health Benefits of Avocados
Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin E, vitamin C, B vitamins, and folic acid. They are rich sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber with roughly 50 calories per 1-ounce serving. The high fat content of avocados promotes satiety, helps regulate blood sugar, aids in hormone regulation, and in the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins.
In addition to monounsaturated fat, avocados also contain phytosterols, plant sterols that compete with cholesterol for absorption, therefore helping reduce blood cholesterol levels. What's more, research suggests that avocados may reduce markers of inflammation associated with heart disease.
Other phytonutrient compounds in avocado include glutathione, which acts as an antioxidant potentially for cancer protection, and lutein, which promotes healthy vision.
Our Favorite Ways to Cook with Avocados
Avocados offer a buttery richness that pairs well with many foods. Diverse enough to be used in appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, we're convinced there's nothing that can't be improved by the addition of an avocado.
Try using avocado instead of butter to make baked goods, such as banana bread, for a cholesterol-free, heart-healthy alternative to saturated fat. Mayonnaise can also be substituted with avocado to cut the fat in half, but keep all the creamy goodness of classic egg salad or chicken salad.
Avocados can also double as serving vessels. Switch up your breakfast routine by baking an egg into an avocado and enjoying the two on a slice of toast. Or, for a fast, no-fuss meal that is sure to ignite your morning, pile sunny-side-up eggs, fresh sprouts, and salsa on a hearty slice of avocado toast.
Bottom Line: Avocados are brimming with vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy fats, and dietary fiber. These buttery-rich fruits have shown positive effects on cardiovascular health and can help reduce inflammation and promote satiety. Their versatility in the kitchen continues to flourish, as they attribute velvety creaminess to an array of recipes. Try one of our favorite avocado recipes today to reap the benefits of this all-star fruit.