Food of the Week: Avocados

As promised, here is this week’s food: avocados. As it just so happens, another one of my favorite party recipes (besides watermelon feta salad) involves avocados. I was planning on posting the recipe soon anyways, so this was the perfect opportunity.

First of all, is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable? Its green appearance and the fact that it often is added to salads would make it seem like a vegetable, but it is, in fact, technically a fruit. They grow on trees and ripen after picking. While living in California this winter, I was fortunate enough to stay with a family who had an avocado orchard right next door! This meant avocados at every dinner and sometimes a giant guacamole bowl to use up the avocados before they started turning brown. The perfect avocado is slightly mushy. They only are perfectly ripe for a brief period of time, so use them quickly! When I go shopping, I often buy one or two ripe ones and then a few others in a variety of places on the ripening spectrum in order to avoid having to somehow eat 5 avocados before they go bad.

Because of their high fat content, avocados are pretty different from other fruits. However, this fat is monounsaturated (instead of saturated—the type of fat that causes problems). Monounsaturated fat has been found to increase the “good” type of cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease. Avocado also contains carotenoids (like watermelon), which are antioxidants. For optimal absorption of these nutrients, the right fat content must be present; coincidentally, this optimal fat content is what is found in the avocado naturally. When eaten with other vegetables in a salad, avocado helps the absorption of nutrients from these vegetables as well.

Many people avoid avocados because of their high fat and calorie content. As previously mentioned, this fat is beneficial for heart health. Also, it is extremely low in sugar and carbohydrates. This allows it to help the regulation of blood sugar, making you feel fuller for longer and making you eat less throughout the day. I often find that fruit makes me feel full at first, but this is a quick spike before I start feeling hungry again. Avocados are a great way of staying satisfied for longer.

So to summarize: avocados promote heart health, nutrient absorption, and blood sugar levels. One more thing—they have also been shown to contain anti-cancer properties.

And now for the fun part! Recipes!

Avocado, kale, shredded carrot salad: I learned this salad recipe from my mom, and it is one of my favorites. I made it a lot this winter in California, thanks to the neighboring avocado tree. Like most of my recipes, you can play with the amounts of all the ingredients. This recipe is the amount I would make for myself (so one large serving).

-1 bunch kale

-0.5-1 avocados (depending on the size)

-2-3 shredded carrots

-1/4 finely chopped red onion

-1/2 lemon, juiced

-1 tsp olive oil

Add the main ingredients to a bowl, then toss with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Lemony avocado snack: This was one of the snacks in the clean eating challenge. It seemed like a bit of a strange idea, but I actually really enjoyed it and it definitely lasted me until dinner. You do have to really enjoy avocados for this one…

-1 avocado

-1/2 lemon, juiced

Cut the avocado in half, then squeeze the lemon over it. Eat with a spoon.

 

Mango guacamole: Here it is! One of my favorite recipes! It is always a little bit different every time I make it since I never use a recipe and sometimes have to improvise based on ingredient availability. It is also exponentially better with ripe, very juicy mangoes. Fantastic appetizer; my friends and I are often full before dinner starts with this on the table.

-1 mango, chopped

-2 small/medium avocados, chopped

-1/3 red onion, finely chopped

-1-2 limes, juiced (probably about ¼ cup)

-1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

-1 tbs cumin (or more, depending on your preference)

-1 tbs rice wine vinegar (this really helps the taste, don’t omit!)

-optional: finely chopped jalapeno pepper (I usually add very little)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You can mash them if you want it to be more like guacamole, or simply mix if you want to keep the ingredients a bit more separate like a salsa. Season with salt and pepper and add more of any ingredients you want to taste more. Eat with corn chips, crackers, or vegetables or in tacos. You can also save some for dinner to eat on top of chicken or fish. Or just eat it plain…

My most recent batch--this one had a perfect mango
My most recent batch–this one had a perfect mango
Enjoy in a celery boat
Enjoy in a celery boat

 

There are many other recipes using avocados in ice cream, smoothies, or breads. I tried making avocado banana bread once with a friend, and we were unable to finish it, so that may take a little more experimenting. I am very curious about avocado ice cream (you don’t even need to use food coloring to make green mint chocolate chip), and I know that avocados make great creamy additions to smoothies. They are also good with eggs and toast.

Tradtional chips and guac--with a big piece of cilantro
Traditional chips and guac–with a big piece of cilantro

 

Avocado Facts:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5

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