Avocados are Awesome

Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.  

When I am asked about my favorite foods in the various categories, in this case fruits I always have to answer Avocados (Persea americana)! Originally found in the wild in their native Central America, we have been enjoying cultivated avocados since early in the last century when La Habra Heights, CA mail carrier Rudolph Hass patented his namesake variety in 1935.

The Hass variety, recognized for its large size, dark and bumpy-skinned appearance still contains most of the nutritional value of its tiny wild ancestors which were no bigger than a hen’s egg, had little flesh. Hass avocados have a much higher nutrient density than its smooth skinned relatives.

While most folks eat avocados because they taste amazing, when added to salads, as guacamole, or in the Powerhouse pudding in the recipe below, these berry fruits are packed with nutrition.

Our mom’s always told us to “eat our vegetables” so we would grow up to be healthy and strong, and the veggies and fruits in our diet certainly are packed with nutrients or as we nutritionists say, nutrient dense. We have learned through studies that while those sweet potatoes, yams, broccoli spears and carrots are rich in health protecting carotenes that protect us from the ravaging effects of free radicals and oxidation, these nutrients are not readily available on their own. The missing ingredient is healthy fats which our bodies require to truly benefit from the phyto-nutrients in our vegetables and fruits.

According to a study cited by George Mateljan, author of The Worlds Healthiest Foods. “added avocado has been shown to increase carotenoid absorption from all of the foods (see above) listed above. Anywhere from two to six times as much absorption was found to occur with the added avocado!”

So when we add avocadoes to our meals, for example with a salsa, we will reap much more of the benefits of the protective lycopene that is present which is particularly important for supporting prostate health.

Not only did avocado improve carotenoid absorption, but it also improved conversion of specific carotenoids (most importantly, beta-carotene) into active vitamin A. Another name for beta-carotene is pro-vitamin A, and many folks, especially in the golden years struggle to make this conversion, and would need to get their vitamin A elsewhere, from cod liver oil, and liver. Mateljan also notes that, “This unexpected health benefit of increased conversion was determined by the measurement of retinyl esters in the bloodstream of participants, which were found to increase after consumption of carrots or tomato sauce in combination with avocado.”

So, for most of us that have been enjoying avocados, solely due to their yumminess, can now give ourselves a pat on the back for supporting our health as well.  At the start of a recent class I presented at the store about this healthy fruit, I polled the attendees about their favorite way to enjoy avocadoes, and some of the options shared were: as a schmear on toast, guacamole, added to smoothies and salads, used instead of mayo for deviled eggs, and tuna salad, and added to recipes with chocolate like the recipe below.

When you are shopping for avocadoes George Mateljan suggests you lightly squeeze the avocado, and if it gives a bit it is ready to eat, and to speed up ripening place your avocado in a paper bag with a banana, since the ripening gasses from the banana will speed up the avocado ripening. Make sure you get all of this healthy fruit out of its skin, as the darker flesh has the highest nutrient value, especially high in eye, skin, and brain protecting lutein.

Chocolate Powerhouse Pudding

Ingredients (Yields 3 cups)

  • 3 medium ripe banana

  • 3 medium ripe avocado

  • 3/4 cup(s) Natural Grocers coconut oil

  • 3/4 cup(s) Natural Grocers bulk cocoa powder

  • 3 tbsp.(s) Natural Grocers raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut nectar

  • 2 tsp(s) vanilla extract, (optional)

Directions

  1. Mash banana and avocado together with a fork until smooth with minimal lumps and well combined.

  2. Add in coconut oil, cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined and a smooth, pudding texture develops.

So, enjoy avocados with your veggies, reap the benefits of all of the health protective nutrients to their fullest, and most of all, enjoy!

For more information on this and other health related topics come in to see me at the Eugene Natural Grocers store. We offer free classes and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (541) 345-3300. Here is the link to our store’s class schedule: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/

Yaakov Levine, NTP