At a Glance: Avocado

School Of Nutrition Posted Sep 15, 2014 Future Fit Training


The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America. The avocado fruit, also known as alligator pear, is a large berry containing a single seed. It is full of health benefits, is available all year-round and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

At a Glance: Avocado

Half an avocado (100g) provides:

Calories

160kcal

Protein

2g

Carbohydrates

9g

Fibre

7g

Fat

15g

Saturated Fat

2.1g

Mono-unsaturated Fat

9.8g

Vitamin C

10mg

Vitamin K

21mcg

Folate

81mcg

Potassium

485mg

Health Benefits

Avocados are particularly high in fibre, vitamins C and K, folate and potassium. Because of its low sugar and high fibre content, avocado has a low glycaemic index (GI) which may help regulate blood glucose levels. On a weight basis, avocados have 35% more potassium (485 mg/100 g) than bananas (358 mg/100 g)! Potassium can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke. The folate also helps lower the risk of heart attacks, making the avocado a very heart-friendly food!

Avocado has sometimes received a bad rap because of its high fat content. While it is true that avocados are high in fat, most of this is the good mono-unsaturated variety, which can help lower cholesterol. The fat content in avocado also helps promote the absorption of fat-soluble carotenoid anti-oxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene.

AvocadoHow to select and prepare

A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it was probably tree ripened and will have better flavour.

The method you use to peel an avocado can make a difference to your health. Research has shown that the greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado occurs in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin. For this reason, the best method to peel an avocado is what the California Avocado Commission has called the "nick and peel" method. In this method, you actually end up peeling the avocado with your hands in the same way that you would peel a banana:

  1. Cut into the avocado lengthwise to produce two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed.
  2. Take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate.
  3. Remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado.
  4. Use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin.

Ways to include more avocado in your diet

  • Add sliced avocado or avocado oil to your salads to enhance your uptake of carotenoids.
  • Spread mashed avocado on bread and crackers as a healthy substitute for butter and/or mayonnaise.
  • Enjoy guacamole with vegetable crudités, wholemeal pitta bread or home-made chips.
  • Mix chopped avocados, onions, tomatoes, coriander, lime juice and seasonings for a rich-tasting twist on traditional guacamole.
  • Add avocado to a tofu-based dressing to give it a rich flavour, as well as a striking green colour.
  • Serve your favourite Mexican dish topped with avocado slices and a wedge of lime for extra flavour and texture.

Use chopped avocado as a garnish for soup. Alternatively, blend into creamy soups for added creaminess.

You can learn more about the benefits of individual foods on our interactive online Nutrition and Weight Management course here

Written by Victoria Trowse 

 

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