May 27, 2013

Veggie Fact of the Day

Avocados are the fruit of a tree native to Central Mexico. Commonly known as Alligator Pears due to their shape and the texture of their skin, they are an integral part of Mexican and Central American cuisine and historical evidence suggests that Avocados were used by man as far back as 10,000 BC. 

While there are multiple varieties of Avocados available, Hass avocados are perhaps the best known variety that are available in US Grocery stores year-round. Generally served raw, avocados are most often used as a base for the classic Mexican dip Guacamole. The texture is not sweet, but rich and almost creamy. Avocados make an excellent base for smoothies and surprisingly (at least to me) is said to pair really well with chocolate shakes and smoothies. In the US, avocado slices/chunks are often served in sandwiches, burgers and even hot-dogs. Small chunks of avocado in taco salads provide a creaminess which limits the use of oily dressings. 

How to Buy?? Here's how. How to cut it?? Here's how. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure when held in the palm of the hand and squeezed. The skin is thick and leathery that darkens from green to almost black as it ripens. Inside, the flesh is generally a pale green closest to the skin and a creamy yellow closest to the pit. the flesh darkens quickly to a dull brown after exposure to air. To prevent this, lime or lemon juice can be added to avocados after they are peeled. Also, leave the seed with any unused avocado portions which helps slow down the enzymatic browning. 

Nutritionally, avocados are probably have highest fat content of all edible fruits, with the exception of nuts and seeds. Fat content varies with the time of year but typically about 75% of an avocado's energy comes from fat, most of which (67% of total) is monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid). Other good fats include palmitic acid and linoleic acid. In addition, saturated fat content is pretty substantial too (~14% of total fat in a single serving). Compare that to most edible seeds and nuts where only 7% of total fat content is derived from saturated fats. However, that isn't the only thing that avocados have to offer. They carry 35% more potassium (485 mg) than bananas (358 mg) and are super-packed with Vitamins B9 (folic acid) and K. In addition, they are a good dietary source of Vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), C and E and dietary fiber (75% insoluble and 25% soluble). Amongst all these benefits of avocados is also the fact that high avocado intake has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and also reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome, including diabetes. 

Fun Fact of the Day: Did you know that avocados ripen ONLY AFTER the fruit is plucked from the tree. Mature fruit can be left unplucked on the tree for as long as 6 months and does not spoil. Once plucked, most fruits ripen (at room temperature) in 3-6 days. 

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