The Mighty Avocado!
The term ‘superfoods’ seems to be used a lot these days. The diet, fitness, and ‘health and wellness’ industry is at an all-time high as far as sales are concerned. People all around the world are becoming more and more conscious about what they are consuming, where their food is coming from, and how diet and exercise plays a role in their weight, BMI, pant size, mental health, and general mood overall. But it can be hard to weed through all the advertising to know what is actually beneficial and what is just a trendy fad.
Enter ‘The Mighty Avocado!’ If you are paying more attention to what you are eating and where you are getting it from, you have probably noticed an uptick in restaurants and food distributors using avocado and avocado products in their recipes and foodstuffs. And lucky for you, it is not just a tasty trend! The avocado packs a powerful punch!
Back in the 1990s, the diet industry survived on a ‘fat-free’ mentality. Everywhere you looked, foods on grocery market shelves were getting the fat sucked out of them, and display it with pride in big, bold letters on the label. Aside from the fact that our bodies NEED fats to function well and survive, one of the biggest issues with this fad was that they needed to replace the lost fat with something. And so, most food manufacturers proceeded to pump their products full of sugar. Ask any dieter who has been on a low-fat or fat-free diet about their experience, and you are likely to hear similar responses regarding how hungry they often were, and that once they were finally able to eat, they felt like they could not stop.
This makes sense! Fats are one of the three main macronutrients that the body relies on on, through food consumption, to survive. Fats help regulate hormones and body temperature, help keep us from being sluggish and lethargic, and provide nourishment for our organs – including our brains, in helping us to think clearly and make efficient, effective decisions at a moment’s notice. Take that away, and you are in for a world of trouble (and just general misery).
Avocados are packed with healthy fats (aka monounsaturated fats, which help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol) – but that also means that they DO come with a higher calorie tag than other fruits. The recommended serving size of an avocado is only ¼ to ⅓ of a full avocado, but that also means that you do not need the whole fruit to reap the avocado’s nutritive benefits! (And it also means there is plenty left to share with family and friends!)
Another reason avocados seem to be taking supermarket shelves by storm is because of their versatility. You can incorporate them into way more recipes and dishes than just guacamole, salads, and tacos! Avocados can obviously be sliced and enjoyed on top of your favorite Tex-Mex dish or side salad, but because they dice, cube, mash, smash and blend so well, you can throw them into loads of other things. What is even better is that, if you want the avocado taste, you can manipulate the recipe so that it can be detected. But if you are using the avocado-less for its green, earthy taste and more for helping create a creamy texture and moist consistency, you can do that too without your taste testers ever even detecting that avocado was used! Avocados can be blended into delicious salad dressings, and if you have ever perused your grocer’s oil aisle, you have probably even seen avocado oil on the shelf. This means that avocados can really play a big, delicious role in creating flavor in vegan and vegetarian dishes. But what about the creamy chocolate breakfast smoothies and avocado brownie dessert recipes that seem to be taking over your social media newsfeed? Because avocados are high in fat, they can be used as a substitute for other fats in recipes that might be worse for your health – i.e. butter, shortening, and high fat cream and dairy products, which all have the ‘bad’ fats like unsaturated fats. Swap out these fats with avocado, and you will hardly taste the difference since avocados have a milder flavor, to begin with, and will be easily overpowered by sweeter, richer flavors like chocolate and maple syrup or agave nectar. If you are in a hurry in the mornings to feed yourself a satisfying, healthy breakfast, throw ¼ of a frozen avocado into your protein powder and almond milk mixture, blend for 10 to 20 seconds, and enjoy a rich, velvety protein smoothie that will keep you full until lunch!
The Cons – And How to Get Around Them
Like most great things in this world, avocados are not completely without flaw. Two major complaints about the fruit are how quickly they ripen and age, and how expensive they are, especially when it is not prime avocado growing season. Most folks do not even know how to properly shop for an avocado, because they feel like the window of time that they are at the perfect ripeness is so small, it is hard to gauge when they will be ready. And furthermore, lots of folks feel like they have to be master meal preppers and know EXACTLY what day and for what meal they will use their avocado, or else run the risk of it going bad. First off, like we already mentioned, avocados are so versatile that even if you DO forget to use them, you can throw them in the freezer for use in a smoothie or baked good (they’ll work great in the above-mentioned avocado brownies if you thaw them out for a bit). But like other fruits and vegetables, avocados keep longer in the fridge. So unless you are at the store to buy an avocado for the guacamole you are making for that evening’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, air on the side of caution and buy them a few days from peak ripeness. (Okay, okay, we hear you. How do you KNOW when they are ripe!? A perfect avocado will be slightly soft and fleshy when you push on it, but will still bounce back. Also, look at the top stem. If it has ‘popped’ out, it is ripe to be used that day.) Then just store them in the fridge, where they will last 2-3 days. Or, buy them when they are really green, keep them in the fridge, and they’ll be ready in five to seven days. And if you need to speed up the ripening process, put them in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Apples and bananas give off ethylene as they age. This ethylene gets trapped in the brown paper bag, and works to speed up the avocado ripening process! And one last thing – if you slice them, add an acidic ingredient like lemon or lime juice to keep the avocado flesh from turning brown. And keep the pit intact with the avo until you eat it, to further prevent browning!
Finally, we all know it – avocados ain’t cheap. At some stores, they can go for as much as $3 a pop! And when you are trying to feed a hungry crowd, well, that is probably just too much for your party budget. And while we can’t control the market, there are fortunately some grocery stores where you can find them extra cheap. It is also smartest, like with all fruits and vegetables, to purchase your avocados during the ‘in season’ so as to get them cheaper. And sometimes, pre-prepared guacamole on store shelves might actually be a more cost-effective way for you to incorporate avocados into your diet and recipes while helping you save a buck!