The Fruit Superhero

The avocado is a fruit or large berry that grows on the Persea Americana, a tree that is native to Central and South America.  Also known as the alligator pear, they are egg-shaped with leathery skin that can either be brown or green, and there are many varieties available, including Hass, Shepard and Reed.  The Aztecs considered the avocado to be the ‘fertility fruit’; while in India it is sometimes called the butter fruit.

The avocado has a multitude of health benefits due to it’s richness in nutrients.

About 85% of the calories of an avocado are from fats, and while their fat content was initially considered to be unhealthy, it is this healthy, anti-inflammatory fat that allows them to help the body absorb the fat-soluble carotenoids within the fruit.

Carotenoids are an antioxidant nutrient that provide colour in vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.  Also known as provitamin A because they turn into vitamin A in the body, the most well-known and widely studied carotenoid is beta-carotene.  Because of their fat-soluble nature, carotenoids require fats to be better absorbed by the body, so the relationship between the avocado’s fat content and carotenoid content is what makes them such a superhero in the fruit family.  The most nutritious part of an avocado is the dark green flesh just underneath the skin because it has the most carotenoids.

Avocados are also high in other nutrients, such as fibre for digestive health, vitamin C and E for antioxidant power and vitamin K for bone health.  Avocados have 35% more potassium than bananas, which is great for muscle and nerve support.  They are a good source of folate, which is great for people who want to have kids because it reduces the risk of neural tube defects in women, and chromosomal defects in sperm. Also, regular consumption of this kooky fruit has also been known to reduce blood fat levels and support cardiovascular health.

The versatility of the avocado means that it can be enjoyed at every meal.  You can have them raw, grilled, mashed, sliced and diced.

For breakfast, instead of scraping butter on your toast, try some smashed avocado.  Mix in some feta, dill and lemon juice for a truly scrumptious topping, or top with tomato and cheese before sticking it under the grill for a savoury treat.

At lunchtime, add avocado cubes to your salad or generously spread into your sandwich or wrap for a delicious creamy filling.

Get creative at dinner by stirring some avocado through your mashed potatoes or putting a few slices on top of your homemade pizza.  If you’re having a Mexican-inspired meal, guacamole is great on top of tacos and nachos.

The creaminess of avocados makes them great in desserts as well, like ice cream, pudding and cream pies.  In some Asian countries, they make avocado milkshakes and creamy desserts that include milk and sugar, and occasionally chocolate syrup.

If you’re looking for an idea that is a little off centre, try this recipe:  Avocado Truffles.

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