Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Avocados; the "Alligator Pear"

There are nearly 500 varieties of avocados, but the most common is the Hass, and it's available year 'round. Once shunned for it's high fat and calorie content, the avocado is proving it's nutritional value. The monounsaturated fat found in avocados may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, benefit weight loss, and when used as a partial replacement for carbohydrates, can help maintain glycemic control for those with type II diabetes.
Along with folate, potassium, vit. C, E, K, and fiber, avocados also contain phytonutrients. Several carotenoids are found in avocados, including carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Lutein may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among Americans aged 60 and older.
Avocados can be used as a substitue for butter or mayonnaise; two tablespoons contain5 grams of fat compared to the 23 grams in butter and 9 grams in mayo. (50 calories vs. 204 calories in butter and 109 calories in mayo).
Pick avocados that are firm, heavy for their size and without bruises or soft spots. The skin turns nearly black when ripe. Store ripe, uncut avocados in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Cut fruit need to be wrapped or covered tightly and sprinkled with lemon juice to avoid oxidation (browning). To freeze, puree or mash the flesh with lemon juice (one Tbsp. for 2 avocados) and place in a sealable, air-tight freezer bag. Freeze for up to 5 months. Once thawed, they last up to 3 days.
To peel, cut a ripe, washed avocado around the seed. Twist to separate the halves and scoop out the seed with a spoon, and then scoop out the flesh.
If you have only used avocados for guacamole, try it diced in salads, wrap sandwiches, and salsas or sliced in omelets. Spread it mashed on sandwiches or burgers. In Brazil, it is added to ice cream!

Spicy Avocado Spread
1 ripe, medium avocado
2/3 cup canned, white or cannellini beans
2 generous sprigs of cilantro
1& 1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 chopped jalapeno, seeds removed
1/2 tsp. green Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp. salt

Rinse and drain beans. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Use as a spread for sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables or crackers.
Serves 6. Serving size: 3-4 Tbsp. Calories: 80. Total fat: 5 g. Sat. fat: .5 g. Cholesterol: 0 mg. Sodium: 105 mg. Carb: 8 g. Fiber: 4 g. Sugar: 0 g. Protein: 2 g.

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