If you’ve been looking for more ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet, avocado is a great accompaniment to many dishes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should be eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but only 13.1 percent are getting enough fruit and only 8.9 percent are getting enough vegetables.
Fortunately one serving of avocado is about one-third of the fruit, which is easy to slice on a sandwich or salad, mix into guacamole, or blend into a smoothie or salad dressing.
“Avocados act as a ‘nutrient booster,’” said Sara Lee Thomas, a registered dietitian at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. “When eaten with a meal, avocado helps the body absorb two to 13 times more heart healthy and cancer fighting nutrients from the other fruits and vegetables you eat.”
Not only is avocado easy to use, but it ripens after it’s picked which gives it a longer shelf life. An avocado is ripe if it gives softly when pressed, similar to the feeling of pressing the back of the hand for most people. To ripen an avocado faster, place it in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Once it is ripe, store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it.
Rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals that protect against heart disease, eye disease, some cancers and contain possible anti-aging effects, Thomas shares other important nutrients in an avocado:
- Excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which can help lower your LDL “lousy” cholesterol and boost your HDL “healthy” cholesterol.
- Ounce for ounce, avocados contain more fiber and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) than any other commonly eaten fruit.
- Zeaxanthin, which protects the eyes and may help block cancer.
- Vitamin E, 14 percent of the daily value in half an avocado. Vitamin E helps reduce the risk of miscarriage and keeps healthy fats from becoming damaged by oxidation.
- Vitamin K, 37 percent of the daily value in one cup. Vitamin K moves calcium into the bones and away from the arteries. Avocados may interfere with blood clotting if you are on the drug warfarin (Coumadin).
- Beta-sitosterol, 76 mg in half an avocado. Beta-sitosterol lowers cholesterol and improves symptoms of prostate enlargement. Avocados contain four times as much beta-sitosterol as oranges, the runner up.
- Folate, which promotes healthy cell development and prevents birth defects.
- Potassium, 17 percent of the daily value in half an avocado. Potassium helps balance the body’s electrolytes. Avocados contain 60 percent more potassium than bananas.
- Magnesium, which helps produce energy, balance blood sugars, and is important for muscle relaxation.
- Fiber, 20 percent of the daily value in half an avocado. Fiber lowers cholesterol and reduces risk of heart attack. Filling and satisfying, fiber may help with weight loss and/or weight maintenance
The one caution in the wonderful world of avocado — cuts to the hand are very common when preparing the fruit. Thomas recommends using a table knife to cut avocado and pry out the seed. If a sharp knife is what you have handy then use a cutting board, not the palm of your hand.
Try an avocado butter lettuce salad and get more fruits and veggies today.