What Is an Avocado?
An avocado is a bright green fruit with a large pit and dark leathery skin. It's also known as alligator pear or butter fruit. Avocados are a favorite of the produce section. They're the go-to ingredient for guacamole dips. And they're turning up in everything from salads and wraps to smoothies and even brownies. So what exactly makes this pear-shaped berry (yes, that's right!) such a superfood?
Some average prices of avocados include:
- Walmart – $0.68
- Kroger – $1.25
- Trader Joe's "Teeny Tiny Avocados" – $2.99 (6 count)
Avocados have a lot of calories. The recommended serving size is smaller than you'd expect: 1/3 of a medium avocado (50 grams or 1.7 ounces). One ounce has 50 calories.
Avocados are high in fat. But it's monounsaturated fat, which is "good" fat that helps lower bad cholesterol as long as you eat them in moderation.
Avocados offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. So in a 100-gram serving, you get:
- 485 milligrams of potassium
- 81 micrograms of folate
- 0.257 milligrams of vitamin B6
- 10 milligrams of vitamin C
- 2.07 milligrams of vitamin E
Avocados are low in sugar. And they contain fiber, which helps you feel full longer. In one study, people who added a fresh avocado half to their lunch were less interested in eating during the next 3 hours than those who didn't have the fruit.
A healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious foods can help prevent and reverse disease. Avocados are a healthy food you can add. The vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats you get from avocados help prevent disease and keep your body in good working order. Avocados may help ward off:
- Cancer. The folate you get from avocados may lower your risk of certain cancers, such as prostate and colon cancer. Nutrients in avocados may also treat cancer.
- Arthritis and osteoporosis. Studies on oil extracts from avocados show they can reduce osteoarthritis symptoms. The vitamin K in avocados boosts your bone health by slowing down bone loss and warding off osteoporosis.
- Depression. Research shows a link between depression and low levels of folate. Folate helps block the buildup of a substance called homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine slows down the flow of nutrients to your brain and speeds up depression. The high levels of folate in avocados may help keep depression symptoms at bay.
- Inflammation. Chronic inflammation can kick off many diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and arthritis. The vitamin E in avocados lowers inflammation in your body.
The nutrients in avocados can also help maintain healthy:
- Digestion. Avocados are packed with fiber. They're especially high in insoluble fiber, which is the kind that helps move waste through your body. Fiber keeps your bowel movements regular and can prevent constipation.
- Blood pressure. Avocados are rich in potassium. Potassium helps level out your blood pressure by lowering sodium levels in your blood and easing tension in your blood vessel walls.
- Heart. Most of the healthy fat in avocado is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. This heart-healthy fat helps lower cardiovascular inflammation. Avocados also have a nutrient called beta-sitosterol, the plant version of cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol helps lower your cholesterol levels.
- Vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants in avocados that are good for your eyes. They help protect the tissues in your eyes from UV light damage and help prevent both cataract and macular degeneration.
- Pregnancy. You need at least 400 micrograms of folate a day during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects in your baby's brain and spine. One avocado gives you around 41% of that.
Avocado on whole-grain toast is the simplest example of avocado toast. However, there are many varieties to try during your next breakfast. Adding different vegetables and other toppings is a great way to change things up.
Lemon olive oil avocado toast. For an Italian-inspired avocado toast, try adding a squeeze of lemon juice, some olive oil, and Italian herb seasoning on top of your avocado toast.
Tex-Mex avocado toast. For a twist on Tex-Mex cuisine, add tomato, black beans, and cilantro to your avocado toast. You can also add a Greek yogurt sauce that includes Greek yogurt, milk, cumin, and pepper.
Everything bagel avocado toast. For this variation, you'll need everything bagel seasoning and whichever toppings you'd like. Once you've toasted your bread, add your avocado and toppings, then sprinkle a good amount of everything bagel seasoning on top for some extra flavor. This seasoning tends to be salty, though, so you don't need to add extra salt.
Dill salmon avocado toast. Adding salmon to your avocado toast can make your breakfast a protein-packed meal. Add chopped dill, a drizzle of Greek yogurt, cucumber, and radish for flavor.
Loaded avocado toast. This recipe uses radish, green onion, jalapeno, and toasted sunflower seeds. Add this mixture to your avocado toast and have a flavorful breakfast.
Mint goat cheese avocado toast. On top of your whole-grain crispy bread, add sliced avocado, soft goat cheese, and some fresh mint leaves. To add more flavor and crunch, throw in some thawed peas, roasted almonds, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Blueberry flaxseed avocado toast. You can sprinkle blueberries, flaxseeds, or hempseeds on your avocado toast for a sweeter option. Even adding a drizzle of honey can add some extra sweetness.
Avocado oil is oil pressed from the avocado fruit. Its mild taste and high smoke point make it a popular cooking oil, but you can also consume it raw. Avocado oil is very similar to olive oil in terms of utility and nutritional value. Like extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed avocado oil is unrefined and retains some of the flavor and color of the fruit, leaving it greenish in color.
Avocado oil is also frequently applied directly to the skin as a moisturizer and can be found in many cosmetics and skin care products. When produced for external application, the oil is usually refined and bleached, giving it a pale-yellow color.
Avocado oil nutrition
One tablespoon of avocado oil contains:
- Calories: 124
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 14 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Avocado oil is a good source of:
- Oleic acid
- Vitamin E
- Monounsaturated fat
Avocado Face Mask
An avocado face mask is a popular natural skin care treatment that uses mashed avocado as the primary ingredient. Because avocado is rich in beneficial nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as antioxidants, healthy fats, and minerals, avocado is an excellent choice for nourishing and hydrating the face.
How to make an avocado face mask
Here's a simple recipe for an avocado face mask:
- One ripe avocado
- One tablespoon honey (optional, for added moisturizing and antibacterial properties)
- One tablespoon plain yogurt (optional, for added nourishment and exfoliation)
- Cut the ripe avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
- Use a fork to mash the avocado until it becomes a smooth, lump-free paste.
- If you choose to add honey or yogurt, mix it into the mashed avocado until well combined.
- Start with a clean and dry face.
- Using clean fingers or a facial brush, apply the avocado mask evenly to your face and neck, avoiding the area around your eyes.
- Relax and let the mask sit on your skin for about 15-20 minutes.
- Rinse off the mask with lukewarm water and gently pat your face dry with a soft towel.
- Follow up with your regular skin care routine, like applying a moisturizer or serum.
How to quickly ripen avocado
To speed up the ripening process, put them in a paper bag along with an apple or banana.
How to know if an avocado is ripe
When the outside skin is black or dark purple and yield to gentle pressure, they're ready to eat or refrigerate.
How to store avocados
Store avocados at room temperature, keeping in mind that they can take 4-5 days to ripen.
Wash them before cutting so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the pulp.
While guacamole is arguably the most popular way to eat avocado, you can also puree and toss with pasta, substitute for butter or oil in your favorite baked good recipes, or spread or slice onto sandwiches.
When ordering at a restaurant, remember that not all avocado dishes are created equal. Some items, like avocado fries and avocado egg rolls, are coated in batter and fried, making them much higher in both calories and fat.
How to freeze avocados
Peel. First, cut the avocado and remove its hard outer skin. Also, make sure you remove the pit from the middle. Freezing an avocado whole won't yield great results because it'll be harder to take apart after it's frozen.
Mash. Avocado freezes the best when you mash it. You can use a fork or toss it in a blender for an even creamier consistency. If you want, you can also slice or cube avocado for freezing. Because the consistency is different after freezing, the shape may not hold.
Divide. Freeze avocado in individual portion sizes. Once it thaws, you'll want to use avocado right away. If you freeze more than you'll use at one time, you may have to throw the rest away.
Seal. The trick to making sure your avocados freeze well is to remove all of the air from the container. If you use a food saver, all the air is vacuumed out. If you're using resealable or reusable storage bags, remove all the air before sealing. If air remains in the bag, the avocado may turn brown before freezing.
Store. For the best quality, keep your avocado frozen at 0 F or lower. A higher temperature means that your food won't stay for as long before spoiling. If the temperature changes, you may notice ice crystals on your avocado, leading to a mushier fruit when it thaws.
Thaw. Place your avocado in the fridge to thaw. Frozen avocados work best for guacamole or smoothies because the consistency changes during freezing.
If you have a latex allergy, talk to your doctor before adding avocado to your diet. People with a serious allergy to latex may also have symptoms after eating avocado. You may also hear this called latex-food syndrome or latex-fruit allergy.
Latex products are made from a protein in the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Avocados have a very similar protein, which is what causes the allergic reaction. Your symptoms could be mild, or they could be serious. They can also get worse each time you have an avocado.
How to Grow Avocados From Seed
- Remove the seed: Cut open a ripe avocado and gently scoop out the seed (pit) from the center using a spoon. Be careful not to damage the seed.
- Clean the seed: Rinse the seed under running water to remove any traces of fruit flesh. Make sure the seed is clean and free from any leftover avocado flesh.
- Identify the top and bottom: An avocado seed is slightly oblong; one end is slightly pointed, while the other is rounder. The pointed end is the top, and the rounder end is the bottom.
- Prepare the toothpicks: Take four toothpicks and insert them into the sides of the seed at equal distances, about halfway up the seed. The toothpicks will act as support when you suspend the seed over water.
- Suspend the seed in water: Place the seed in a glass or jar with the pointed end facing upward. The toothpicks should rest on the rim of the glass, holding the seed so that the bottom half is in water. The top half should remain above the waterline.
- Place in a warm, bright location: Put the glass or jar with the suspended seed in a warm spot with indirect sunlight. Change the water every few days to keep it fresh.
- Wait for sprouting: It may take several weeks for the seed to sprout roots and a stem. Be patient and continue to monitor the water level and its growth.
- Planting the seed: Once the sprout reaches about 6 inches in length and develops a few roots, it's time to plant it. Fill a small pot with potting soil and create a hole in the center. Gently place the seed in the hole with the root end down and the sprout facing up. Cover the roots with soil, leaving the top of the sprout exposed.
- Watering and care: Water the newly planted seed thoroughly and keep the soil consistently moist. Place the pot in a sunny location with indirect sunlight. Avocado trees prefer warm temperatures, so ensure the plant is not exposed to cold drafts.
- Transplanting: As the avocado tree grows, it will outgrow the small pot. You'll eventually need to transplant it into a larger container or directly into the ground if you live in a suitable climate.