I simply love the taste of a creamy avocado- ripe to perfection and without  the black markings streaming through the pulp that come with age. You certainly do not want avocados too soft to the touch, running the risk of being overripe nor too hard and ultimately tasteless, let alone impossible to cut through.

In doing my avocado research, I learned some new facts, the most interesting being that many of its health benefits are in the pulp closest to the skin.  This means giving special care to how you cut the avocado. George Mateljan in his book, World’s Healthiest Foods, 2nd Edition: The Force For Change To Health-Promoting Foods and New Nutrient-Rich Cooking, has it down to a science – cut the avocado in half, removing the pit, of course, cutting  it in half again to make quarters, and then peeling off the skin like you would a banana.  In this way, you save the exterior portions of the avocado.

Why are avocados so nutritious, especially in the areas just beneath the skin?  For one thing, George Mateljan points out that avocados help to absorb carotenoids found in foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy green vegetables.  Carotenoids, the pigments found in fruits and vegetables, serve as anti-oxidants, fight inflammation, and help to maintain a healthy immune system.

Avocados also improve the conversion of certain carotenoids into vitamin A, which supports our vision and general growth.  Absorption can be increased up to sixfold when avocados are mixed with carotenoid-rich vegetables. Carotenoids are more concentrated just beneath the skin of the avocado.

George Mateljan also cites research suggesting that adding avocados to a well-balanced diet has been shown to lower risk of heart disease, improve blood levels of LDL, and lower levels of oxidative stress in the bloodstream following consumption of food.  The group that did best in the research in terms of improved heart-related results consumed an avocado a day.

People often worry about the fat content of avocados, but first and foremost, they are healthy fats that are body needs and they are anti-inflammatory in nature. Avocados are also very filling, and you are not likely to overeat on processed foods laden with sugar after eating an avocado close to nature and as far away from the processed food section as you can imagine.  It is such a wholesome food that makes you crave other wholesome foods.

There are many delightful dishes that can be made with avocados and carotene-rich foods.  One of my favorites is a chopped kale salad with sliced baked or boiled sweet potato, and cubes of avocado.  Frankly, since avocados are so filling, I would rather eat a daily avocado over the course of a day than in one sitting and walk away feeling too full. Simply spreading avocado on a piece of whole grain bread is delicious.  This can be part of a breakfast or lunch.  Tossing avocado in salads or soup enriches flavor and nutrition.  Be creative.  I am sure that they are many more ways to use avocado in dishes and at best trying to pair it foods rich in beta-carotene.  Readers are welcome to share their ideas!

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Photo: Avocado gazpacho (June Rousso)