In the United States, avocado consumption has exploded since the 1970s. They’re not just for guacamole anymore. In fact, they’re packed with enough nutrition to qualify as a superfood.
While we tend to think of the avocado as a vegetable, it’s classified as a fruit since it contains a seed. In fact, the avocado is a member of the berry family.
Types of Avocados
Hass (California) Avocado – In the United States, you’ll find two very different types of avocados. The more predominant variety is also the most expensive and luxurious variety—the small- to medium-size Hass avocado, grown in California.
This rich variety is available year-round, and accounts for about 90% of all avocados grown in the U.S. and 80% of world production. You will know it immediately by its green-purple color and its dimpled skin. When you cut into a ripe Hass avocado, its texture resembles butter that has been removed from the refrigerator but has not yet reached room temperature.
Florida Avocado – The remaining 10% of domestic avocados are grown in Florida. They are significantly larger than the Hass avocado, and they contain about half the fat and 30% fewer calories. These are the bright lime green avocados with the tight, smooth skin. When you cut into the Florida avocado, you’ll notice a light green to yellowish flesh that’s juicer than the Hass avocado—more tropical in nature.
Avocados deliver more potassium than bananas, and they’re dense with vitamin C, E, K, a range of B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace minerals such as copper and zinc.
Florida avocados contain approximately 275 calories, with about 195 calories derived from fat.
California (Hass) avocados contain about 385 calories, with about 195 calories derived from fat. Except for vitamin C, they contain a higher in level of vitamins and minerals; they contain about half the vitamin C of the Florida avocado—still a significant serving.
The first fact you probably learned about avocados is that they are high in fat. In fact, 75% of Hass’s calories are derived from fat—monounsaturated fat—the good kind of fat. A medium-sized avocado, according to WebMD, contains about 30 grams of fat. A study conducted in Mexico revealed that a diet high in avocados reduced LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). As rich and creamy as they are, who would guess that they’re also high in fiber?
Because of their fat content, avocados aid the body in assimilating fat-soluble nutrients such as carotenoids. Avocados are also revered for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and their ability to help in regulating blood sugar.
How to Choose and Store Avocados
Look for firm, slightly soft avocados without and dents, cracks or bruises. Avocados can be ripened at home on the counter, not in the refrigerator. Their skin darkens as they ripen, and they become softer. After they ripen, they’ll keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Once you cut into the fruit, sprinkle exposed flesh with lemon juice to keep it from discoloring.
How to Eat Avocado
Of course you can make guacamole or add slices to your salad, but that’s so pedestrian. Other ways to enjoy this rich treat include topping some fish with a slice or two or mashing it and using it as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. For a refreshing summer lunch, stuff half an avocado with chicken, shrimp or tuna and optionally top with a tablespoon of salad dressing. The recipe ideas are endless!
If you’re watching your fat intake like a hawk, you can ease up a little when it comes to the avocado. You’ll want to eat these creamy jewels in moderation, but remember that good fats are required for optimal health, and what better way to slip a little fat into your diet than with a healthy superfood like the avocado.