The Appealing Avocado
Avocado History: On May 15, 1915, in the posh new Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles, a cadre of California farmers gathered to decide the fate of a new crop. The ahuacate, a pebbly-skinned, pear-shaped fruit, had been a staple food in Mexico, and Central and South America since 500 B.C. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors fell in love with the fruit after observing its prized status among the Aztecs. Until the early 1900s, this fruit had never been grown commercially in the United States. By 1914, however, hotels in Los Angeles and San Francisco were ordering as many of these fruits as they could and paying as much as $12 for a dozen. The avocado was known as an alligator pear, because of the shape, green skin, and rough texture of the Hass variety. (The Florida avocado has a shiny, smooth surface.) But the farmers came up with a new name: avocado. Today, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States. Like most fruit, the avocado ripens once plucked from the tree. But its flesh is amazing: buttery, not sweet, somewhat nutty and oily in flavor; firm enough to be sliced or diced, or even mashed into a paste or puree. There are more than 400 varieties of avocado, but Hass has become the most popular in the United States.
Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K, folate, and B6. Half an avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat. One globe contains more than one-third the daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day’s requirements of vitamin K. Naturally sodium-free and cholesterol-free, California Avocados act as a nutrient booster by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene as well as lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit. According to the American Heart Association, mono and polyunsaturated fats, when consumed in moderation and eaten in place of saturated or trans fats, can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk for heart disease. Avocados are one of the few fruits that provide “good” fats (0.5 g Poly and 3 g Mono per 1-oz. serving). According to David Heber, M.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles, “Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can reduce heart disease by providing heart healthy nutrients and phytonutrients such as the monounsaturated fat and lutein in avocados. Compared to other commonly eaten fruits, California Avocados rank highest in lutein, which acts as an antioxidant and betasitosterol, which may block cholesterol absorption.”
Avocados have many serving options. They can be sliced and served with apples, nuts and cheese. In their most popular form, guacamole, they are mashed with salt, lime, garlic and cilantro and with chiles and tomatoes, depending on the recipe. Avocadoes can be served to infants with spoonfuls of avocado straight from the skin. In other countries Indonesians blend them into drinks with sweet condensed milk. Whereas Brazilians add it to ice cream. In California, we put it in our maki sushi rolls.
Avocado in Meals
Consider adding avocado or avocado oil to your salads. Antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene are better absorbed with the healthy monounsaturated fat avocados have in abundance.
Avocados can be used in smoothies, soups, in sandwiches, with eggs in a breakfast burrito, added to tuna salad, in tacos, used as a dressing, or added to black bean salad. To help prevent an already sliced avocado from browning, sprinkle lemon juice on the exposed flesh, and then refrigerate in a plastic bag.
Here is a recipe to try:
Zesty Tofu and Quinoa Salad. A quick, easy and delicious meal full of nutritional value. Serves: 1
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 oz extra-firm tofu, cubed
- 3 tbsp diced red pepper
- 3 tbsp diced green pepper
- 1 tsp cilantro
- 2 tbsp diced avocado
- 2 tsp fresh lime juice
- Combine all ingredients. Not a fan of tofu? Try grilled chicken or salmon with the quinoa and vegetable mix.