Why We Love Avocados

You can use them in soup, dip, salad, drinks and, heck, even ice cream. Avocados are certainly a wonder fruit (yep, they're a fruit). With such versatility, we can't help but like them, but add their health benefits to the list and we're in love.

The Backstory

The avocado fruit originated in Mexico, sometime between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. The Aztecs called it a "fertility fruit" (the etymology of the name "avocado" has some racier affiliations too). Today, California is the leading producer of domestic avocados; 90% of the U.S. crop comes from there. One avocado tree can produce about 500 avocados a year -- that’s 200 pounds of fruit.

The most common and popular variety in the U.S. is the Hass. When ripe, its pebbly skin turns from green to blackish. Other avocado varieties include Fuerte, Bacon and Lamb Hass.

Nutrition Facts

Avocados are high in unsaturated fat, specifically the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind, and have no sodium, cholesterol or trans fats. They contain the antioxidant lutein, which can help keep eyes healthy, and the plant sterol beta-sitosterol, which studies link to lowering cholesterol levels. Although nutrient-rich, avocados are high in calories -- about 250 in one medium-sized fruit. Because of the higher calorie and fat content, stick to small portions; a serving size should be about 1/5 of the fruit.

Cooking with Avocados

The simplest way to enjoy avocado is plain -- just a few slices in a sandwich or salad. Brazilians add it to ice cream, and in the Philippines, pureed avocado is mixed with milk and sugar for an after-dinner drink. Here in the U.S., we love our guacamole, a dip made from mashed avocados and tomatoes, onions, cilantro and spices.

Thanks to its creamy flesh, avocados work well in various dishes. Cube an avocado and top with orange juice for a sweet treat. Make a chunky avocado salsa with tomatoes and corn, or try one of the dishes below. Look for recipes with small portions of avocado so you don't overload on calories and fat.

Keeping Avocados Fresh

The grocery store usually carries firm unripe avocados. Choose those that are unblemished and heavy. To speed up ripening, place them in paper bag at room temperature for two to four days. Once ripened, keep them in the refrigerator for several days. After they're opened, avocados tend to brown rapidly. Some people leave the pits in to delay browning, which doesn't always work. Try drizzling them with lemon juice to keep the green bright and fresh.

    Healthy avocado recipes to try:

PS: Want to serve up a winning bowl of guac at your Super Bowl party? We have more great guacamole tips and videos. But remember: indulge in moderation!

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