Ingredient Spotlight: Avocado, the Healthiest Berry Around

Ah, the glorious avocado.

Avocados are technically fruits (actually, they are berries!) that grow from trees originally grown in south central Mexico. The trees do not self-pollinate, they need another avocado tree nearby in order to grow fruit. The avocado is an Aztec symbol of love and fertility, and they also grow in pairs. They cannot be eaten right off the tree, they are picked green and need time to ripen before consumption.

Scientists have unearthed evidence from the Coxcatlan Cave in Mexico that reveals that avocados were used as far back as 10,000 BC. The word “avocado” comes from the Spanish word aguacate, which is from the the Nahuatl word ahuacatl. It’s also sometimes called the alligator pear due to the shape and rough green skin.

There are hundreds of different types of avocados, ranging from the oval-shaped, light-skinned bacon variety to the pear-shaped, thin-skinned zutano variety. Each type differs in shape, size, skin type, taste, and texture. The most commonly known avocado type in America is the Hass, named after the man who first cultivated it. Hass avocados are originally from California and have a thick black skin. On average, 53.5 million pounds of guacamole are eaten every Super Bowl Sunday… That’s enough to cover a football field more than 20 feet thick.

Now for the nutritional info. Avocados are a superfood that contain more potassium than a banana, a ton of healthy fats, fiber, and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. When added to other foods, avocados can serve as a nutrient booster. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and antioxidant carotenoids (found in vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes) are powerful phytonutrients that are more readily absorbed when combined with a healthy fat. Including an avocado in a salad, for example, can dramatically boost the nutritional value of that meal.

Avocados are known to help lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce arthritis, improve eye health, and prevent cancer.

A trick to finding the perfectly ripe avocado is to peel away the stem and notice what color the flesh is. If it comes off easy and the flesh is green, it is ready to go. If it is brown, it is overripe and if the stem doesn’t come off, it is underripe.

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