Avocados are well-known for their digestive and heart health benefits—the latest news suggests avocados may have blood cancer-fighting benefits as well. Check out our picks for top avocado health benefits and some of our favorite delicious avocado recipes!
Avocados, like tomatoes, are technically a fruit, but they’re usually used in cooking as a vegetable. Avocados have a rough, thick, dark skin that has earned them the nickname “alligator pear.” But don’t let the tough skin fool you—the flesh inside is smooth, soft and flavorful due to the avocado’s fat content. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that help keep your heart healthy.
Avocados are rich in healthy oils and fiber, so we suggest you eat at least one avocado each week.
Making the most of monounsaturated fats
One ounce of avocado (about 2 tablespoons) contains 50 calories and 2 grams of fiber plus significant amounts of magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin K, and lutein—quite a lot of nutrition for such a small amount of food.
Avocados have more calories than most vegetables, so you need to watch your serving sizes. One serving of avocado is only about 2 tablespoons.
Avocados help to keep your heart healthy, reduce the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, and increase your absorption of vitamins A, E and K.
- Protecting your heart: Avocados contain oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat recommended by the American Heart Association. Oleic acid protects your cardiovascular system by reducing your total cholesterol (elevated levels of cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease) and increasing your HDL cholesterol (the good kind—higher levels of HDL help to protect your heart).
Avocados are also a good source of a plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Sterols are a component of cell membranes in plants, and play a role similar to that of cholesterol in animal cells. Plant sterols are well-known for their ability to lower cholesterol in humans.
The combination of oleic acid, plant sterols, folate, and fiber makes for powerful protection from heart disease.
- Reducing prostate symptoms: Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol. The British Journal of Urology reported in 2000 that men who were treated with beta-sitosterol had reduced urinary symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostates. Follow-up studies found that beta-sitosterol therapy was still effective after 18 months.
- Increasing absorption of fat-soluble vitamins: Eating fat along with foods containing vitamins A, E, and K helps improve the absorption of those vitamins. Adding a little avocado to a garden salad is a great way to boost vitamin absorption while adding extra nutrition.
Adding avocado to your diet
Avocados that are firm to the touch can be ripened at home. Place them in a brown paper bag and keep them at room temperature for up to five days.
Your avocados will ripen faster if you place an apple in the bag. Apples give off ethylene gas that ripens fruits and some vegetables.
Tip: Once an avocado is cut open, it is prone to browning. If you make guacamole, leave the pit in the dip and it will prevent it from browning. When you slice an avocado in half, you can save the half with the pit intact which will prevent it from browning.
Enjoy avocados on sandwiches, in salads, burritos, tacos and more! Try one of these simple, delicious and nutritious recipes!
Tomato and Avocado Salad
Tomatoes, avocados, and olive oil offer a delicious combination of vitamins, antioxidants, and healthful oils—truly a heart-healthy dish!
Prep time: About 5 to 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
- 2 small tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
- 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Arrange avocado, tomatoes, and onion on a serving plate in alternating fashion.
- Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro. Pour the dressing over the salad, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Vary It: If fresh cilantro isn’t available or isn’t to your liking, you can use parsley instead.
Per serving: Calories 322 (From Fat 301); Fat 33g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 150mg; Carbohydrate 7g (Dietary Fiber 5g); Protein 2g.
Chicken or Beef Fajitas with Avocado Sauce
This is a great recipe if you’re hosting a party and aren’t sure whether the guests would prefer beef or chicken. The key is the superfood avocado sauce that tops the meats and goes great with either one. This sauce combines both garlic and avocado—two great superfoods.
Prep time: About 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 to 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
- Six to eight 8-inch or larger whole-grain tortillas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 yellow or red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fajita seasoning
- ¼ cup water
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips, or 1 to 2 pounds of flank steak or other steak of choice sliced into thin strips, or half beef and half chicken
- 2 medium avocados, peeled, seeded and sliced
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon dried cilantro or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Shredded cheese and lettuce (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap the stack of tortillas in foil and place them in oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat a large, nonstick skillet on high; add olive oil, peppers, and sliced onion and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Mix fajita seasoning and water in a small bowl, and then pour the mixture into the skillet. Add the meat and sautéed vegetables, and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
- Make the avocado sauce by placing avocados, chopped onion, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper into a food processor; cover and blend until well mixed.
- Serve the meat and vegetables on individual tortillas, and spoon avocado sauce on top. Top with shredded cheese and lettuce as desired.
- Vary it: Instead of whole-grain tortillas, try low-carb spinach wraps.
Per serving: Calories 338 (From Fat 133); Fat 15g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 49mg; Sodium 373mg; Carbohydrate 33g (Dietary Fiber 8g); Protein 23g.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
- 1 lime (juiced)
- 3 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 serrano chili minced
- 1 Roma tomato chopped
- In a large bowl, mash avocado with a fork.
- Stir in remaining ingredients
Tip: remember you can leave the pit in the dip to prevent browning.
Per serving: Calories 170; Fat 15g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 10mg; Carbohydrate 12g (Dietary Fiber 8g); Protein 2g.
*Superfoods for Dummies by Brent Agin, MD and Shereen Jegtvig, MS
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