I think avocados are a perfect food. They are creamy, rich and smooth. They are not just for guacamole but can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. They can be added to sandwiches, salads, pasta, soup and chocolate pudding.

Avocados were first cultivated in Mexico as early as 500 BC. They were first introduced to the United States in 1871. At the time, there were over 25 varieties of avocados produced in California. Today, the primary variety of avocado is the hass avocado. One hass avocado contains:

Dietary fiber = 9.2 g
Total sugar = 0.41 g
Energy = 227 kcal
Protein = 2.67 g

Calcium = 18.0 mg
Iron = 0.83 mg
Magnesium = 39.0 mg
Phosphorus = 73.0 mg
Potassium = 690 mg
Sodium = 11.0 mg

Vitamins and Phytochemicals
Vitamin C = 12.0 mg
Thiamin = 0.10 mg
Riboflavin = 0.19 mg
Niacin = 2.60 mg
Pantothenic acid = 2.00 mg
Vitamin B6 = 0.39 mg
Folate = 121 μg
Choline = 19.3 mg
Betaine = 1.0 mg
Vitamin A = 10.0 μg
Carotene, beta = 86.0 μg
Carotene, alpha = 33.0 μg
Lutein and zeaxanthin = 369 μg
Vitamin E = 2.68 mg
Vitamin K = 28.6 μg

Saturated fatty acids = 2.90 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids = 13.3 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids = 2.47 g

The health benefits of avocados are numerous:
* Avocados are a great source of protein with approximately 2.67 grams of protein and 18 essential amino acids.
* Avocado consumers tend to consume significantly more of the key shortfall nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium
* Avocado consumers have higher HDL-cholesterol, lower risk of metabolic syndrome, and lower weight, BMI, and waist circumference.
* Avocados have been shown to have a beneficial effect on total cholesterol and body weight control.
* Avocado enriched diets improve lipid profiles by lowering LDL-cholesterol without raising triglycerides or lowering HDL-cholesterol.
* Avocados contain a number of bioactive phytochemicals including carotenoids, terpenoids, D-mannoheptulose, persenone A and B, phenols, and glutathione that have been reported to
have anti-carcinogenic properties.
* Avocados may have DNA damage protection effects and promote eye and skin health.

Many people are afraid to eat avocados because of their fat content. Unfortunately, this is based on outdated science where we used to think that eating fat in foods would cause fat in our bodies. This resulted in all of us restricting our diets to low-fat foods. We now know that just like all calories are not created equal, not all fats are created equal. Fats can be classified as fats that are good for us and fats that are bad for us.

Fats can be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated or saturated. This refers to whether or not the chain of fatty acids is bonded to all of the hydrogen atoms it can. A saturated fatty acid has the maximum number of hydrogen atoms. A monounsaturated fatty acid has one hydrogen atom missing and a polyunsaturated fatty acid has two or more hydrogen atoms missing. At the point of unsaturation (where the hydrogen is missing), the carbon atom forms a double bond. The degree of saturation effects the temperature at which the fat melts. Generally, the more unsaturated the fat is, the more it will be liquid at room temperature. Saturated fats tend to be stable at room temperature, whereas polyunsaturated fats tend to be more unstable and are generally stored in the refrigerator. Animal fats tend to be saturated, while plant fats tend to be unsaturated. The general view was that saturated fats were bad for you and unsaturated fats are good for you. There is now new research to suggest that saturated fats such as coconut oil, red palm oil and avocados are healthy for you. So when consuming fats, look for healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil.

Do not try to cut fats out of your diet. Fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They:
* are the body’s main source of stored energy
* provide fuel to muscles
* protect internal organs from shock
* insulate against temperature extremes
* form the major material of cell membranes
* are used as the raw materials for various other compounds, such as hormones

One of my favourite quick breakfasts is to toast up some gluten-free bread and top it with mashed avocado, salt, pepper and a drizzle of smoked olive oil.

* Information from Dreher, Mark L., & Adrienne J. Davenport. (2013) “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53: 738-750; Sizer, Frances S., Ellie Whitney, and Leonard A. Piche. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd., 2012.*

This entry was posted in Food.