“The Healthy Gourmet”

June 10, 2010

Fabulous Fat from Fruit!

In an earlier Health Quest column I covered fats, both the “good” and the “bad” fats.  Good, or better, fat comes from vegetable sources or oily fish and are non-saturated, with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats carrying the torch for “good” fat.  But there is another source of “good” fat that is yummy, versatile, and available year round and is actually a fruit:  the avocado.

Avocados have been around for a real long time — there is evidence of avocados being in Mexico around 10,000 B.C.  Avocados originated in Mexico but today the majority of avocados we enjoy are from California, with Florida producing about 10% of the US avocados.   There are hundreds of varieties of avocados but the most common in US markets are the Hass avocado (named after a postman who planted a tree in his yard and filed for a patent for the “Hass avocado” in 1935) and the Florida variety.

There are significant differences in the Hass and Florida varieties of avocado:  the Florida varieties are only produced between June and February, and they are large with a smooth light green skin.   Hass avocados are produced year round, are smaller and have a dark purple-black rough skin.  Florida avocados tend to be juicer with lower fat content than Hass – 100 grams of a Florida avocado contains about 120 calories and 10 grams of fat where 100 grams of a Hass avocado has about 167 calories and 15 grams of fat.

An interesting fact about avocados is that they do not ripen on the tree – per Wikipedia, avocados, like bananas, are “climacteric fruits, which means that it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree”.  Avocados must be mature in order to ripen, so they can be picked off the tree when green and mature and then allowed to ripen as they travel.  (I have no idea how maturity is established but clearly the growers have figured that one out.)  One nice thing about not ripening on the tree is that if avocados are not picked, they have a sort of natural storage area on the tree and will last for several months there.  And avocados are prolific: the average avocado tree produces over 1200 fruit pre tree a year!

Avocados offer great nutritional value, and with their high content of “good” fat along with their creamy, nutty taste they are a great food for those looking to transition off meat for either a short- or long-term diet plan.  Fat content in a 3.5 ounce serving of avocado is 4.5 grams, of which 0.5 grams are saturated fat – all with 0 cholesterol.  Avocados are high in potassium, having about 10% of your daily intake met in a 3.5 ounce serving (and that is 60% more potassium than found in bananas!).  Avocados also have significant amounts of dietary fiber, Vitamin E, the B-Vitamins, and folic acid.

We all know to use avocado as the base for wonderful guacamole – whether you mash the avocado and add lime juice, salt and pepper for a purist version or whether you add salsa, sour cream and other ingredients to make your own special version, guacamole is a very common use for avocado.  I would challenge you to think outside the box when using avocado in order to reduce calories/fat/cholesterol while increasing taste:

Slice avocados thinly and use on a sandwich to replace mayonnaise

Mash avocado, add salt and pepper, and spread on toast for a quick and healthy breakfast

Blend avocado with milk, ice, and a bit of sugar for a wonderful, and healthy, smoothie (and add a squirt of chocolate sauce for a special treat!)

Try slices of avocado in soups for an interesting variation

Slices of avocado in green salads are wonderful, especially with a lime vinaigrette

Top homemade (or frozen) pizza with thin slices of avocado after the pizza has baked

 

Here are some great recipes for avocado – enjoy this Fab Fat From Fruit!

 

Artichoke, Avocado and Chicken Salad                                                  Serves 8

Dressing:

1/3  c rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 T light Caesar dressing

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake.

Salad:

Combine artichokes, olives and chicken and coat with a small amount of the dressing.  Place the Romaine in a large flat bowl and dress with ½ the remaining dressing. Top with the artichoke/olive/chicken mixture, dress with remaining dressing and top with avocado.

 

Calories                                380

Fat                          20 g

Saturated Fat     3 g

Sodium                 590 mg

Chilled Avocado Soup                                                                   Serves 6

2 T olive oil

1 c white onion, chopped

1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt

4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped

2 c chicken broth, reduced fat and low sodium

5 T fresh lemon juice

¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped

Pepper to taste

Heat 2T oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and serrano and saute for 10 minutes, or until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Season with salt.  Remove from heat and cool.

 

Put the avocados in a blender and add the chicken broth, lemon juice, cilantro and onion mixture.  Puree until smooth.  Blend in 2 cups water.  Strain the soup into large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

 

Calories                                332

Fat                          28 g

Saturated Fat     4.28 g

Sodium                 39mg

 

 

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