Written by R. S Jacobs
I am not really a big fan of using the word ‘Super’ for anything regarding food because I don’t follow the ‘Superfood’ craze. Recently, I have been seeing a lot of nutrition articles that actually debunk common ‘Superfood’ myths, so for those who may have jumped on the (often quite expensive) bandwagon, it seems that many are not a ‘Superfood’ after all. Having said that, I most certainly would make an exception for avocado, which is arguably the best fruit in the world. This absolute gem is packed full of nutrients, fiber, healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates. Many of your body’s nutritional requirements are catered for after just a few bites of an avocado.
It is virtually the only kind of fruit that provides an intake of good fats (monounsaturated), essential to lowering cholesterol for example. If you have ever been confused or worried about which kind of fat you should be having, avocado is an excellent solution. Since the 70s, there has been a lot of conflicting information about fat intake in general, but more recently, science has taught us that healthy fats are essential for maintaining optimum organ functions. Avocado has monounsaturated fat which is not only great for reducing bad cholesterol levels but also to support heart function in the prevention of diseases and stroke.
The rich creaminess adds an indulgent taste sensation and you would be surprised at how much this small addition can enhance the overall dish. Avocado is packed full of micronutrients, and it also serves as a natural nutrient booster in the body by ascertaining efficient absorption of vitamins and minerals in other food or fruit that you consumed. Avocado is very versatile in the sense that you can literally have it with almost every kind of food. Some of the experimental ways I like to include avocado in my diet are:
* Mashed or sliced on toast (which seems to be a bit of a social media trend at the moment) perhaps with some chilli, pepper, salmon and egg
* On sandwiches instead of butter or mayo
* Included in pasta dishes to create a creamy sauce
* Eaten with rice dishes as a guacamole dip
* Mashed up and served with different beans based meals
* Added to fruit smoothies (as a substitute for milk or yoghurt).
I always advise pregnant clients who may be concerned about piling on the pounds throughout pregnancy, to make sure that they include avocados as part of their diet because it helps to maintain a healthy weight. A medium avocado also provides about a quarter of the recommended daily folate requirement, folate is a vitamin essential to cutting the risk of birth defects and many pregnant women are required to take folic acid supplements. Avocados also contain potassium and magnesium which are vitamins and minerals vital to foetal development throughout both early and later trimesters.
A full avocado contains approximately 7 grams of fibre, made up of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which are both essential to maintain a healthy digestive system. In addition, soluble fibre significantly slows the breakdown of carbs within your body, which helps you to feel fuller for longer meaning you have fewer cravings and in turn, you will eat less. Fat that contains fibre takes longer to break down and therefore your body has to burn more calories in order to complete the digestion process efficiently. Even more amazing is that Avocados contain something called oleic acid, which is a type of fat that triggers the receptor in the brain to signal the rest of the body that you are full. This humble fruit is actually the perfect solution in more ways than you might initially have imagined.
When selecting your avocado in the stores, make sure you choose them according to when you intend to eat them. Avocados are very temperamental little creatures, they will remain hard for what seems like an eternity, and then all of a sudden, they all ripen at once and then within 2 days, they start to go black. I suggest you buy some ripe ones, then a couple that is just on the verge of ripening and then, a few that will need more time. When looking for a ripe or ready to eat avocado, it should be dark green or purple-brown in colour, and it will feel slightly soft to the touch but not enough that you could leave a dent when you press it.
Another good tip for choosing an avocado is when you remove the stem or little pip at the top, the flesh inside is beautifully green in colour with no brown specs. If the stem comes away too easily and is brown underneath, chances are it is overripe and the flesh will be brown and mushy. When an avocado is a dark black colour on the outside, there is a high chance it is probably rotten on the inside.
If you seem to always pick up the most unripe avocados no matter what detective inspection tactics you use, do not despair as you can actually ripen them at home too. You can either put them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana in a warm place, and this will speed up the process significantly. If you don’t want to ripen them that quickly, you can leave them in a bowl with a few bananas and this will also slowly help them to ripen. One thing I have learnt through default that I feel I must share with you is that you should never keep your avocados in the fridge, and never try to cook or boil them as this will only ever end in disaster. Always eat them raw as this will ensure that the natural nutrients and healthy fats are not tampered with.
Health Benefits of Avocado
* Heart Health. Avocado helps to regulate blood pressure and maintain homocysteine levels (amino acid associated with blood clots when too high), which can be detrimental if they are at soaring levels. The monounsaturated fat in avocado is essential to prevent the buildup of plaque around the heart valves and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
* Youthful Skin. If you want silky smooth, healthy looking skin with the highly desirable youthful glow, put away the expensive lotions and potions, and get your hands on some avocado. Once you start eating avocados regularly, you will begin to see significant changes in how your skin looks and feels. As avocados are jam-packed full of antioxidants, vitamin C and E, these all contain collagen boosting components that help to prevent aging and wrinkly skin.
* Healthy Eyesight. We all know that vitamin A is necessary for maintaining good eye health. Avocado takes it a step further by providing the eyes with the nutrients essential to preventing eye diseases/conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts and vision loss. Older people should incorporate avocado in their diet to ensure they maintain good eye health. Eating this wonderful fruit encourages good eyesight over a long term.
* Strong Bones. Some people might be very surprised to know that regular consumption of avocado ensures you receive a good intake of calcium. Avocado also possesses magnesium, which is needed for calcium absorption in the bones. The mixture of these vitamins and minerals helps build stronger bones and cartilage. It also assists in lubricating the joints towards the prevention of arthritis and osteoporosis.
* Fat Loss. Yes, avocados are high in healthy fats but what people do not realise is that when you consume regular portions of healthy fats you are communicating with your internal systems to start burning fats instead of storing! This does not mean if you eat healthy fats, you can also shovel in some unhealthy fats and hope that the fat burning will cover them too!
Your fat burning system handles monounsaturated fats better whilst distributing the vitamins, minerals and energy needed according to your bodily requirements. As mentioned, monounsaturated fats trigger receptors in the brain, so you realise you are full and eat less, and of course, due to the high fibre content, it takes longer to process and leaves you feeling fuller for longer! The combination of all these factors, garnished with its richness in vitamins, most definitely encourages a healthy fat loss or maintenance regime.
* Improves Digestion. With the added advantage of its high fiber content and the creamy texture, avocado acts almost like a soothing lubricant for the digestive process. It coats the stomach and intestinal walls to prevent common digestive issues, often as a result of poor food choices, such as constipation, excess acid production and bloating. These issues are often triggers for diseases such as colon cancer. So by eradicating them, you are significantly reducing the risk altogether.
* Build Muscle. For those who are interested in exercise or fitness, the main goal is usually to be in good shape and the best way to achieve this is by improving your overall muscle mass and tone. And yes, you guessed it, avocado helps you with this too because they provide good sources of electrolytes, calcium, magnesium and protein which are essential elements for building and maintaining muscle mass. These nutrients also promote good muscle recovery and repair so it allows you to keep improving your strength and conditioning levels.
Due to it’s versatility, avocado most definitely is a multi-purpose food that can be added to just about anything. You can have it plain, or dress it up with different herbs, spices, chilli, seasoning or whatever else takes your fancy. Why not try replacing some of your butter or sauces with an avocado alternative. And as I always say, with anything regarding your nutrition and fitness regime, moderation is the key. Avocados are high in fats (fat contains 9 calories per gram) and an average sized avocado has between 200-250 calories each, which works out as about 1 hour moderate exercise to burn off. Whilst avocados are calorie-dense, they are also one of the most nutrient-dense foods too (containing roughly 20 essential vitamins), but you should only eat them as part of a balanced diet. I always encourage half an avocado every day as a rule of thumb to get the goodness that avocado has to offer.
Stay strong, warriors.
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