Avocado is often said to be the most nutritious fruit in the world—and it is! The fruit provides more than 25 essential nutrients such as protein, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium, just to name a few.
Nutritionists claim avocado contain goodly amounts of vitamin C (necessary for the production of collagen needed for the growth of new cells and tissues, prevents viruses from penetrating cell membranes, and also a powerful antioxidant), thiamine (converts carbohydrates to glucose to fuel the brain and nervous system) and riboflavin (helps the body to release energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fat).
Avocado also has 60 percent more potassium than banana. Potassium is a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. As such, adequate intake of potassium can help guard against circulatory diseases, like high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke. In addition, avocado also provides calories for energy and beneficial phytochemicals such as glutathione.
In recent years, most people avoid eating avocado like the plague. The reason: avocado is high in fat. In fact, 75 percent of its calories come from fat (which is why avocado is a good source of energy). But what they don’t know that the fat it contains is the healthful monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
“Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders,” says Dr. Ed Bauman, director of Bauman College. “They’re loaded with fiber [11 to 17 grams per fruit] and are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health.” Unsaturated fats are those found in dairy and animal products.
Another reason for eating avocado: It helps in the absorption of nutrients that are fat-soluble such as beta-carotene and lutein, when foods containing these nutrients are eaten with avocado.
Overall, avocado is considered a complete food: it has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calories and fiber, no cholesterol, and is sodium free. As such, avocado is ideal for growing up children, adults and even for babies, especially when blended with other fruits. For athletes, avocado is a nutritious energy booster to rev up the body’s strength.
In the past, avocado has been considered to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, the Aztecs used the avocado as a sex stimulant and its name for the fruit as ahuacatl, which means “testicle.” Because of this well-entrenched reputation for inducing sexual prowess, avocado wasn’t purchased or consumed by any person wishing to protect their image from slanderous assault.
Although edible by themselves, avocados are commonly used as a base in dips. In areas where the fruit is commonly grown, a common breakfast is avocado on toast. This is made by mashing the avocado with some lemon juice, salt and pepper and spreading on hot freshly toasted bread.
Actually, the avocado fruit is not sweet, but fatty, distinctly yet subtly flavored, and of smooth, almost creamy texture. In Brazil and Vietnam, avocados are frequently used for milk-shakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado.
In the Philippines, ripe avocado is often eaten as a snack by scooping from flesh from the skin then mixed with some sugar and milk or cream. Most Filipinos simply find the taste so delicious!
In Australia, avocado is commonly served in sandwiches, often with chicken. In Mexico, avocado is served mixed with white rice, in soups, salads, or on the side of chicken and meat. In Peru avocados are consumed with tequeños as mayonnaise, served as a side dish with parillas, used in salads and sandwiches, or as a whole dish when filled with tuna, shrimps, or chicken.
There are many health benefits you can get when eating avocado. Recent studies have shown that high avocado intake has effect on blood serum cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados, hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17-percent decrease in total serum cholesterol levels. These subjects also showed a 22-percent decrease in both LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels and 11-percent increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”) levels.
Researchers have also discovered that avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. In a review article published in the December 1999 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers pointed out that beta-sitosterol was shown to reduce cholesterol in 16 human studies.
But before you pile avocados onto every dish, remember that when it comes to calories, avocados have lots of them—because of all that fat. Fat of any type has double the calories of the same amount of carbohydrates. “Avocados add great variety to a well balanced, low-fat diet, but you have to eat them in moderation,” reminds Melanie Polk, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
A recommended serving size is two tablespoons, or roughly one-sixth of a medium-sized avocado. Each serving provides five grams of fat and 55 calories. Still, compared with butter or mayonnaise, which each pack 22 fat grams and 200 calories in a 2-tablespoon serving—they don’t seem so bad.
Avocado is also an excellent remedy for dry skin. Rub the inside of the skins against clean skin. For a face mask, mix 1/4 cup each of avocado puree and sour cream. Gently rub on face and neck, avoiding the sensitive areas around the eyes, and let it soak in about 15 minutes. Rinse with tepid water. Then gently massage the invisible oil into the skin with an upward and outward motion.
However, here’s a word of warning: There is documented evidence that animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, birds, fish and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume the avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit. The avocado fruit is poisonous to some birds.
The reason for this is that avocado leaves contain toxic fatty acid derivative known as persin. The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart and even death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound. Negative effects in humans seem to be primarily in allergic individuals.
Avocado has a long history of cultivation in Central and South America. It was introduced into the Philippines in 1890 by the Spaniards through seeds coming from Mexico. However, it was only from 1902 to 1907 that avocado was introduced successfully into the Philippines by the Americans.
“Avocado has a bright potential for development in the country,” says Rachel C. Sotto in a position paper published by Food and Agriculture Organization. For one, avocado can be grown anywhere in the country. “This is due to the introduction of several varieties belonging to the three different avocado races, giving the crop a wide range of soil and climatic adaptability,” she writes.
For another, the avocado has a long fruiting season. “In the Philippines, the peak of the fruiting season is from May to September, although some trees in certain localities fruit from January to March.”
Sotto is batting for the growing of avocado in the country because the fruit has a big potential for generating dollar revenues for the country. In the United States, avocado is sold at a very high price. Although avocado is listed as a fruit in the Philippines, it is considered a vegetable in the US.
“Avocados are often put on hamburgers and ham sandwiches,” reports the Philippine News Agency. “They are also used on carne asada tacos. In South Texas, peanut butter and avocado sandwiches are popular lunch-box items, most commonly associated with Mexican-Americans. Avocados are also combined with eggs, in scrambled eggs, and in tortillas or omelettes.”