Vegetable of the Month – Avocados
One of the challenges of eating for health is maintaining a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. No matter how hard or thoroughly I organize my shopping list, it seems that I am making a stop at the store at least twice a week, if not more. It is one of those things that I have resigned myself to doing for the sake of healthy eating. I suppose that I could better organize myself but I really do not mind grocery shopping and often times really enjoy it.
One piece of produce that regularly makes in into my cart is avocado. Ten years ago you would have rarely seen an avocado in my cart. I was just not that familiar with it and did not grow up eating them. However, it all changed for me when my healthy eating mentor and sister-in-law came to visit years ago. I always admired her flawless, glowing skin and wondered what her secret was. She did not have an answer for me but what I noticed is that she ate avocados daily. At the same time, I began reading more about how beneficial avocados are. One of those benefits of eating avocado is healthier skin. I began incorporating more avocados into my diet and have noticed better skin myself. Of course, avocados have numerous health benefits, and not just for the skin.
Once again, I have decided to devote the Vegetable of the Month Blog to a fruit…not a vegetable! I just could not help it. I love avocados that much! In addition, many people view the avocado as a vegetable, but technically it is a fruit, as it contains a large seed inside. Unlike most fruits, the avocado is not sweet. It is usually eaten raw and has a mild, soft, creamy texture. The avocado has numerous culinary uses ranging from Mexican dishes to Japanese sushi.
Nutritionally, it is the high level of monounsaturated fat content that sets the avocado apart from other fruits and vegetables. Thank goodness most of us no longer buy into the low-fat craze. What matters is the type of fat or ‘good versus bad’ fats. There is no need to worry about the fat content of the avocado! Monounsaturated fats are the good fats, the kind that most Americans do not get enough of. They do not raise cholesterol levels and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Besides good fats, the nutrient dense avocado is high in fiber, potassium, B, E and K vitamins. I was surprised to read that avocados even have more potassium than a banana. The nutritional goodness of the avocado can contribute to a healthier heart, immune system, nervous system, skin and hair
A one ounce serving (or 1/5 of a medium fruit) of avocado has about 50 calories, 4.5g of fat (3 grams are monounsaturated) and 2 grams of fiber. It contains little to no sodium and cholesterol. If you are watching your calories you will want to limit your portion size, as an entire avocado contains over 200 calories and 21 grams of fat.
If you are unfamiliar with the fruit, an avocado is ripe when it has a slight give to it when squeezed. To prepare the avocado, slice it lengthwise around the entire fruit (until your knife hits the pit) and twist both halves in opposite directions. The large pit can be removed by scooping it out with a spoon or a knife can be inserted into the pit and twisted. Lastly, the flesh is scooped out of the skin.
Often times I will slice an avocado and eat it with a sprinkle of salt on a cracker or tortilla chip. It also goes well sliced in a sandwich or wrap or added to a salad. I also use it as a meat substitute with black beans in a soft shell taco with salsa and a bit of cheese. While researching avocados, I read that mashed avocado can be used as a butter / oil substitute in baked goods, just as ripe bananas or applesauce can. I have never tried this substitution but I would like to experiment with this.
Avocados are the base to guacamole (avocado, onion, tomato and cilantro) but also make a great base to other dips, such as a corn, black bean, onion, cilantro salsa.
The recipe below is a twist on the corn, black bean salsa recipe. Instead of incorporating the avocado into the salsa, I decided to serve the salsa in an avocado halve. It can also be served as a fun appetizer with tortilla chips. To make it easier to eat with chips, just dice up the avocado and mix it into the salsa instead of serving the salsa in an avocado half. I served this recipe for dinner along side slow cooked chicken. I put chicken breast into the slow cooker with Mama Jess Bien Good Sauce and pulled it apart with a fork when done. Mama Jess has several delicious Mexican recipes on the Mama Jess website using the Mama Jess Bien Good Pasta and Enchilada sauce. It is easy, delicious and makes for a pretty presentation!
Remember what Mama Jess always says….eat your veggies (and fruit)! Until next month!