avocado

A Guide to Avocados

 

Let me just say it: I love avocados. Love love love them. When it’s avocado season here in California, I eat them all the time. They are just so creamy and so delicious.

I’m not the only one. Americans eat around 1.65 billion pounds of avocados per year.  Avocados have also been cultivated for food for thousands of years throughout Central and South America. Today, Mexico is the world’s largest producer. Of the US-grown avocados, California is by far the largest producer. However, a much smaller number are also produced in Florida. Besides US and Mexico, you’ll sometimes also find one from Central or South America. Technically, there are over 50 varieties (categorized by their West Indian, Guatemalan, or Mexican ancestral origins). However, over 95% of those produced in California are of the Hass variety.

Buying and Storage Tips:

A ripe avocado is slightly soft, but not too soft. One trick I’ve heard is that it should feel like the tip of your nose – firm with a little bit of give. However, much firmer, unripe fruits can be easily ripened at home. In fact, it’s often a better bet and prevents the disappointment of opening one only to find brown streaks or dark spots from too many shoppers handling it.

To ripen an avocado at home, simply leave it in your fruit basket (or paper bag) for a few days. The skin will turn darker and it will become slightly more soft (but should never actually be squishy). Do not refrigerate an avocado until it is ripe. After it’s ripened, it can be safely stored in the fridge for up to a week. Note, when refrigerating, it’s best to keep it uncut to prevent browning. If you’re storing an unused portion of a ripe avocado, sprinkle the cut surface with a little lemon juice and store in a seal container to prevent browning.

The Best Way to Peel and Avocado:

The most nutrients in an avocado are concentrated near the peel. It’s therefore best to preserve as much of the dark portion as possible. According to the California Avocado Commission, the best approach is called the “nick and peel” method. First cut the avocado lengthwise, so that two halves are only connected by the seed in the middle. Then, hold both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they separate. Remove the seed and cut each in half again lengthwise to produce four long quarters. You can then use your fingers to peel the skin off of each segment much like you would a banana. The result is a ready to eat avocado with all its healthy dark green pulp.

Why They’re Good for You:

Avocados are chock-full of healthy fats and vitamins. About 80% of an avocado’s calories come from fat, very unusual for a fruit! Don’t be alarmed however, as nearly all of this fat is the monounsaturated “healthy” kind. By weight, they have even more than olives (the source of every nutritionist’s favorite oil). All of these healthy fats are also great for helping you absorb carotenoids. Simply adding an avocado to a salad, carrots, or tomato dish was actually found to increase carotenoid absorption up to six fold! Avocados are also great sources of fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamins B5, B6, E, and C. They actually have almost every daily recommended vitamin. All the healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds found in avocados have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and even improve blood glucose control.

Favorite Recipes:

One of my favorite ways to eat an avocado is the most simple – just eat it raw and unaltered (although it’s also great with some nutritional yeast sprinkled on top). It’s actually one of my favorite snacks and will hold me over for hours. They’re also great in smoothies, spread on top of your favorite raw bread, or (of course) in guacamole. Some of my other favorite recipes featuring avocado are

Avocado Smoothie

Avocado Basil Smoothie

Raw Chocolate Mousse – Rawmazing

Raw Greenylicious Herb Soup – from Earth Sprout

Sushi with Sprouts and Tahini Miso Ginger Sauce – from This Rawsome Vegan Life

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