Avocados for Health
The United States is the world's number one commercial producer of avocados. It is a major cash crop in Southern California and southern Florida, and to a much lesser degree in Texas. California has about 80 percent of the United States' market and their avocados are available twelve months of the year.
The avocado has a unique flavor and texture. All other tree fruits have either a tart, tart-sweet, or sweet flavor and a juicy texture. The avocado looks like a huge green olive and, like the olive, has a single hard pit. It is very firm when immature and is rich in oil when it reaches full ripeness.
Depending on the variety, the immature fruit comes in every possible shade of green. Some are smooth and shiny, others are dull and have pebble-grained skins. Some varieties retain their original green color as they ripen. In others, as the fruit ripens the green changes to bronze, reddish purple, or even jet-black. Some varieties are almost round, but for the most part avocados are pear- shaped. Hence they are often called avocado pears.
To test for ripeness, cradle the avocado in the palm of your hand. If it yields to the slightest and gentlest pressure, it is ready to serve, it is a Florida avocado. If it is of the California variety, give it an extra day. Too many avocados are cut and served before they have reached full maturity and flavor. Once the fruit is cut, the ripening process is terminated. So make sure that it does have the slight yield before you cut it.
Avocados are not only flavorful and colorful, but are also blessed with versatility. They can be sliced, diced, pureed or served on the half-shell. They are flavorful enough to serve alone, but also blend well when served with fresh fruit, salad greens, cottage cheese, cold meats and especially seafood. A fully ripe avocado has the consistency of soft butter and makes a delicious and colorful sandwich spread.
A cut avocado, like a sliced peach or banana, will darken and discolor when exposed to air. Sprinkling the exposed surfaces with fresh lemon or lime juice will retard this discoloration. Try to use a cut avocado as soon as possible. In the interim, cover the exposed surfaces with plastic film. If you cut the avocado in half, don't remove the pit until ready to serve.
Avocados are tropical fruits and don't like cool temperatures. Never put a firm avocado in your refrigerator. At best it won't ripen properly, at worst its flesh will turn black.
A black-skinned avocado is a hallmark of quality. The California Hass variety is an ugly duckling that has a dull, pebble-grained green skin when it is immature. As it ripens. the color of the skin turns to jet-black. This least attractive variety is by far the finest-flavored avocado available. When you see this Hass variety, remember that its ugliness is only skin deep.
From the California Avocado Commission...
- Avocados are sodium and cholesterol free and have only five grams of fat per serving, most of it the monounsaturated kind.
- Avocados were once a luxury food reserved for the tables of royalty, but now California avocados are enjoyed around the world by people from all walks of life.
- Brazilians add avocados to ice cream
- Filipinos puree avocados with sugar and milk for a dessert drink.
- Latin Americans wrap avocados up and give them as wedding gifts.
- The avocado is also called an Alligator Pear because of its pear-like shape and green skin.
- About 43 percent of all U.S. households buy avocados.
- Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable, belonging to the genus Persea in the Lauraceae family.
Avocados Are Nutritous
- Avocados contain 81 micrograms of the carotenoid lutein, which some studies suggest may help maintain healthy eyes.
- Avocados contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds that can contribute to the nutrient quality of your diet.
- Avocados, due to their mono and polyunsaturated fat content, are a healthy substitution for foods rich in saturated fat.
- One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz) has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals making it a good nutrient choice.
- Avocados contain 76 milligrams beta-sitosterol in a 3 ounce serving of avocado. Beta-sitosterol is a natural plant sterol which may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
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