Avocado: Another Healthy “Green”

Peak avocado season ends in September. So if you haven’t already, grab a few—or more.

The avocado, which is technically a fruit, can be a good menu choice because oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid, or MUFA) makes up more than half of its good-for-you fat. MUFAs help the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids (another important avocado nutrient) and lower the risk of heart disease, according to the USDA. These fats also boast another heart disease foe, phytosterols, which are also particularly valuable against arthritis.

Avocados include nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds that can contribute to the nutrient quality of your diet, says the Hass Avocado Board. Avocado consumers eat significantly higher amounts of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber and other nutrients compared to non-avocado consumers, according to the 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Furthermore, the George Mateljan Foundation says that adding avocado to a salad with romaine, spinach and carrots increases its carotenoid content between 200 and 400 percent.

More Reasons to Love the Avocado

Among avocado’s antioxidant carotenoids are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and violaxanthin, the foundation adds. These nutrients are additional aids against cardiovascular disease, plus such other inflammation-related health problems as cancer, diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease, says the National Institutes of Health. Chalk up most of these benefits, particularly the cancer- and heart disease-fighting properties, to avocado’s unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.

An avocado portion size is about one ounce/30 grams, or about a fifth of a medium-sized fruit. Use it as a healthy substitution for foods rich in saturated fat, recommends the Hass Board, by swapping equal amounts for items such as sour cream, cheddar cheese and margarine. Forgo bottled salad dressing–which usually is loaded with saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and other nutritional nasties—by including it in salad. For instance, today’s Avocado Garden Salad.

Preparation: 20 Minutes

Per Serving: 78 Calories, 5g Total Fat, 222mg Sodium

Servings: 6. Serving size: 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups, torn or cut mixed salad greens
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp., lemon juice
  • 1⁄3 tsp., garlic powder
  • 1 tsp., ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp., salt
  • 1 large avocado, peeled

Preparation:

  1. Mix salad greens, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber in a large serving bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and salt. Pour over salad mixture and toss together.
  3. Cut avocado in half lengthwise. Remove pit and peel avocado halves. Slice into thin wedges, about 1/8-inch thick.
  4. Arrange avocado slices on top of salad and serve immediately.

Recipe from Everyday Healthy Meals Cookbook from the California Department of Public Health.

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