In the quest for a lean body or a healthy heart, many people see fat as a four-letter word. This fear can be taken too far, particularly when super nutritious, antioxidant-rich foods, like avocados, are viewed as off-limit, forbidden fruits. Actually, avocados should be near the top of your shopping list. Here’s why:
• Avocados are a source of heart-friendly monounsaturated fatty acids, vital vitamins and important minerals.
• A medium avocado (about 4 ounces) provides a powerful 500 mg of potassium, more than one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for folate (folic acid), and 10 percent or more of the RDA for iron, magnesium, beta-carotene and vitamins C, E and B6.
• Avocados contain more folate than any other fruit. They also possess powerful antioxidant activity and disease-fighting properties.
• Improving your diet and health can be a satisfying experience when your taste buds are treated to the rich taste and creamy texture of avocados.
• Avocados rival many other widely touted anti-aging foods, such as red wine and grapes. Avocados contain more lutein than any other fruit. This carotenoid provides powerful protection against cataracts and macular degeneration, major causes of blindness in the elderly.
• Avocados contain at least twice as much beta-sitosterol (a plant sterol that inhibits cholesterol absorption in the intestines) as corn, green soybeans or olives, and more than four times as much as bananas, apples, grapes, plums, cherries and cantaloupe.
• Ounce for ounce, avocados contain three times more glutathione than bananas, apples, cantaloupe, grapes, plums and cherries. This antioxidant may protect against cancer.
Add Avocados to Your Healthy Diet
Here are some unusual ways to make avocados stars in your diet.
• Use to replace a portion of the cream in ice cream.
• Slice and serve over gazpacho.
• Slice, drizzle with lemon, lime or orange juice, and add to fruit salad.
• Use them to replace yogurt, milk or flax oil in a tropical fruit smoothie. In a blender, combine 1/2 cup water, a 1-ounce scoop of vanilla egg white protein or whey protein, 1/3 to 1/2 of a ripe avocado, peeled and sliced, 1 to 11/2 cups sliced fresh or frozen mango, pineapple and strawberry blend, and 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger. Blend until smooth. Taste and add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon stevia extract powder for a sweeter taste. Serves one as a breakfast or a mini-meal on the go.
Avocado adds a rich taste and creamy texture to green vegetable soups without milk or cream. This is a variation on a recipe created by the California Avocado Commission. Fish, poultry or other meat with a bright yellow, orange or red vegetable or fruit dish complete the meal.
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 to 3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon ground chipotle (smoked, dried jalapeño pepper)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
3 packed cups broccoli, stalks peeled and thinly sliced, tops cut into florets, tough parts discarded
2 large ripe avocados, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup minced scallions or cilantro leaves (for garnish)
Hot sauce, ground black pepper or lemon pepper, optional
Combine 2 cups broth or stock with onion, garlic, salt and chipotle in a 2-quart pot with optional cumin. Cover and bring to boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add remaining broth and broccoli. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Do not boil or overcook broccoli.
In blender or food processor, puree vegetables, liquid and avocados in batches, holding top down with a towel and starting on low to avoid splattering. Return soup to pot and warm gently. Ladle into bowls, garnish and serve. Add hot sauce or black pepper to individual portions, if desired. May also be served chilled. Refrigerate and use within three days.
* Replace the broccoli with your choice of zucchini, summer squash or asparagus.
* Omit chipotle. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or lemon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or use 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed.
An unlikely but delicious combination — cocoa, avocado and dates make a delightful dessert without dairy and with a fraction of the fat contained in conventional confections. It’s easy to make and packed with potassium and antioxidants. FYI: Avocados should be ripe and yield to pressure, but not mushy. Buy 1 or 2 extras just in case. You always can add them to a salad, salsa, smoothie or guacamole.
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup chopped, soft, pitted dates (such as medjool)
2 medium-large ripe avocados (1 pound or 2 to 21/2 cups halved, seeded, peeled and diced)
1/3 to 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (start with less, then adjust upward)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons rum or 1 teaspoon natural rum extract, optional
3/4 cup cold water or ice
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, colored part only
Slowly sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan. Warm over low heat, without stirring, until completely dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture to blender or food processor with dates. Process until frothy, about 60 seconds, and turn off machine. Add remaining ingredients except orange zest. Cover and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape sides with spatula. Taste; add more cocoa if desired. Fold in orange zest by hand, then scrape mixture into 6 small bowls or wine goblets. Chill for 1 to 3 hours until set before serving. Refrigerate and use within 5 days, or freeze.
* Replace dates with 1/3 to 1/2 cup agave nectar or light honey; reduce cold water or ice by 1/4 cup.
This Cuban-inspired condiment makes a terrific topping for baked, broiled or grilled white fish, chicken breast cutlets, turkey or veggie burgers, or beef.
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup capers, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced pimento-stuffed green olives
2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño chile or 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 ripe medium avocados, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped (3/4 to 1 pound)
Juice of 1 large lime
Combine ingredients in a glass or nonreactive bowl. Toss gently with a fork to evenly distribute seasonings. Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Bring salsa to room temperature before serving. Use leftovers within 24 hours.
Rachel Albert-Matesz is a food and health writer, cooking instructor, healthy cooking coach and co-author of The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Planetary Press, spring 2004). She teaches cooking classes in gourmet kitchen shops and private homes in the Phoenix metro area. For info about her book, classes and services, visit www.thegardenofeatingdiet.com or call (602) 840-4556.