Sometimes called “alligator pears,” avocados are shaped like pears and have tough, green and bumpy skin, which resembles alligator skin. They are fatty fruits, not vegetables, and come from the avocado tree, known as Persea americana, which is native to Mexico and Central America. Easy to incorporate into one’s diet, they are tasty and versatile. Avocados are a nutrient dense food filled with an incredible amount of health benefits. Some of the most important include the following:
1. Avocados are nutritious sources of potassium, Vitamin B complexes, Vitamin K as well as trace elements manganese, copper and zinc.
2. Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat (MUFA) which is a heart-healthy and also found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to have protective effects against certain disease processes including development of cardiovascular disease, stroke and possibly cancer. Avocados do not contain cholesterol and may indeed lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
3. Avocados, unlike most fruits, are low in sugar and carbohydrates, which makes them an ideal food for a diabetic diet. Half an avocado contains only 1/2 gram of sugar, has a low glycemic index and does not raise blood glucose significantly.
4. Avocados contain high levels of dietary fiber, which can help regulate digestion. Though not a low calorie food, they can actually be part of a weight loss regimen because of the indigestible fiber and their property of satiety, which help make people feel and stay full.
5. Avocados are rich in phytonutrients including anti-inflammatory carotenoids such as lutein, which is protective against certain eye diseases associated with aging. Carotenoids are fat soluble, so the combination of the fats in avocado and the presence of this antioxidants aids the body’s ability to absorb these important nutrients.
Avocados are easy to include in salad or a sandwich, to use spread substitute for mayonnaise or butter on bread, or to incorporate as a base for a dip such as guacamole. Here is a simple, delicious recipe for guacamole.