Discovering the Health Benefits of Avocados

December 11, 2015 | Food, Health, Healthy Living, Nutrition, Recipes, WIC

Join us this month as our friend Willow the bunny teaches children and families all about avocados. Avocados are a versatile super food containing nutrients essential to healthy growth and development. The green, pear-shaped fruit (yes, fruit!) line supermarket shelves year round – how is that possible? Fruits and vegetables have growing seasons; these growing seasons can drastically affect the availability of certain foods. Due to globalization, avocados remain largely unaffected by these restrictive periods. For optimal cultivation, they require a tropical or subtropical climate with little to no wind. In the United States, avocados are currently grown in California and Florida. The growing season for California lasts from February through September, but with assistance from our neighbor to the south – Mexico – avocados are available at any time of the year. Mexico leads the world in avocado production due to the hospitable growing environments; they currently out produce the United States by a factor of 3:1. Avocados are a climacteric fruit – like bananas – meaning that the fruit matures on the tree but ripens after it has been harvested. This ripening property is beneficial to avocado producers; by allowing producers to harvest the fruit in advance it enables them to get the best return on their crop.

Fun fact: Avocados are known as butter fruit in India. In the United Kingdom, avocados are often called alligator pears!

Packed with nutrients and relatively low in calories, avocados are considered to be a nutritionally dense food. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, containing 3 grams per serving. In fact, avocados are the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat. The good fats found in avocados can help reduce cholesterol and even aid in the absorption of nutrients. Known as a nutrient booster, avocados can increase the body’s digestion of fat-soluble nutrients.  These nutritional properties make avocados attractive to individuals and families who may not eat rich sources of fat such as red meat and dairy products. Avocados are also high in potassium; a single serving contains twice the amount found in a banana. They are also a good source of folate – a B vitamin that is an essential component to a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevents neural tube defects in developing fetuses. All of these nutritional properties make avocados an excellent addition to your family’s diet.

Different Uses for Avocados: 

  • Fat Replacement. Since avocados are naturally high in good fats, they make a great substitute for foods containing less beneficial forms of fat. Avocados work wonderfully in place of butter or oil in baking recipes. The good fats in avocados are also helpful for individuals who need to gain a little extra weight.
  • Baby’s First Food. The creamy texture and mild taste of avocados makes them a perfect first food. The folate content also is extremely beneficial to expectant mothers, infants, and children.
  • Air Purification. Avocados can be cultivated indoors by retaining the seed found inside of the plant. The pits can be sprouted by inserting four toothpicks into each side. The bottom half of the seed is then placed into a container with water – the toothpicks act as a support to prevent the seed from being completely submerged. After several weeks, a root sprout will appear from the bottom half of the pit. Once the actual plant develops, the seed and all can be transplanted into a pot containing nutrient rich soil. Place in a sunny area and watch your new avocado tree grow!
  • Mashed, Pureed, Baked, or Blended. Avocados can be transformed in many ways to add more depth of flavor to a dish.

Avocados are an extremely versatile fruit and can be used for a variety of recipes both savory AND sweet. Try these following recipes with your family – you may just find a new favorite way to eat avocados!

Avocanana Bread 

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ¼ cup buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Line a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with nonstick foil and lightly grease the bottom only.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Combine dry ingredients: oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. Scoop the avocado into a large bowl and mash lightly.
  5. Add oil and brown sugar to the avocado. Cream together using an electric mixer, until light and creamy.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Stir in bananas, then walnuts and dry ingredients.
  8. Stir in buttermilk and beat just until buttermilk is incorporated.
  9. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Avocanana bread is quite moist and may not pass the “toothpick” test at this point. If you prefer drier bread, bake a little longer.

Orange Peel Chicken Stir-Fry with Avocados 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the strir-fry:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1 ½ strips
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • ½ cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ½ cup carrots, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

To make the sauce:

  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

To make the stir-fry:

  1. Heat a large sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the chicken to shimmering oil in an even layer and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Break up the pieces with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add peas, onion, and garlic. Cook until tender and the chicken is done, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sauce. Add avocados, carrots, salt and pepper. Serve.

This recipe can be served over quinoa, pasta, or brown rice.

Power-Hour Pick Me Up Smoothie 

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • ¼ of fresh avocado
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • ½ cup frozen mango cubes
  • 1/3 cup plain, nonfat yogurt (Substitute for greek yogurt for a quick protein boost!)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth – serve immediately!

Resources:

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/why-avocados-always-in-season

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avocado

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/17/avocado-benefits.aspx

http://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients