Avocado health benefits were the last thing on my mind when I first tasted this fruit. I wasn’t very impressed with the experience and wondered what all the fuss was about. At the time, in Australia, avocados were hugely expensive, too, but I listened when a friend told me that they were an ‘acquired taste’. Fast forward a few weeks and they were my favourite food – and still are!
I even researched setting up a farm in Western Australia and growing avocados for profit – which, in those days, would have been a viable business idea – and I could have indulged my new-found gourmet passion!
Instead we came to North Queensland and all I had to do was to visit local markets – much easier!
Originally from Mexico and Central America, avocados (persea americana) require good, well drained soil, a warm climate with plenty of sunshine and water – just as one would expect. But they are also tolerant of a range of climates, in Australia thriving in extremes, such as in the southern Albany area of Western Australia and in the tropics of North Queensland.
About a third of the nation’s avocados are grown in the tropical region of the Atherton Tablelands, an hour’s drive from the coastal city of Cairns. Here the requirements of rich soil, sufficient rain or reticulated water from lakes and relatively easy access to markets are met.
They are picked before being completely ripe, a great help with transport and handling and their keeping qualities. I almost always buy avocados when they are hard and bullet-like to the touch as I know that they will not have been bruised by handling. When those, kept in a fruit bowl on my kitchen bench, have begun to soften, I then buy a few more hard ones!
So what are some avocado health benefits?
Fats: High in monounsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids keep hearts healthy
Vitamins: Vitamins C, E, K and the Bs 5, 6 and 9 plus other antioxidants
Minerals: Potassium lowers blood pressure copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium,
Fibre: Quite high levels assist with healthy weight and digestion
Sugar: Low levels compared with most other fruits
All these wonderful properties mean that a diet, which includes moderate amounts of avocados, can be of enormous benefit to your digestion, cardiovascular system, reduce cholesterol levels and risk of stroke, help avoid Alzheimers disease, diabetes, certain cancers and maintain a healthy weight as well as improve eye and skin health, improve immunity…a superfood indeed!
Sorry to remind you but none of this will be of much benefit unless used in conjunction with healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise, non smoking, low alcohol use, proper sleep and an engaged intellectual and social life!
NB: On the subject of antioxidants and supplements this article may interest you.
Sometimes known as alligator pears (because of their shape and the often rough texture of their skins) avocados are prized for variable qualities, such as their fat content, smoothness of the flesh, size of their seeds and slowness to oxidize when cut. Each variety has its own characteristics, which are then subject to seasonal weather conditions, soil types, harvesting times and the like. Here is a sample of that variety – there are plenty more!
Haas grows year round at various locations within Australia. It is smallish or medium in size, its seed being small in proportion to the flesh (value for money!) with rough, dark green skin that turns blackish or purplish as the fruit ripens.
Shepard, available in the summer months, is my favourite with its large size, glossy smooth green skin, high proportion of flesh to seed, creamy texture and rich taste. It doesn’t brown or oxidize when cut, either, so can be popped back into the fridge for when I want to use another slice or two. I find that avocados are great ‘snack’ foods and I have developed a way of cutting wedges so I don’t waste any!
Reed, available in early summer is medium sized, roundish rather than pear shaped, green with a large seed and smooth flesh.
Sharwil, mostly available in the winter, is also a favourite of mine with its nutty flavor and small seed. Small in size, it is rather special!
Wurtz is another winter variety, small in size and with rough skin, full of flavor and very popular for backyard gardens because of the small size of the tree.
Guacamole (a dip with chillies, tomato, onion, salt and avocado) is a favourite of many. Personally I love avocado in a salad, on top of vegemite and toast, in a dip with lemon pepper, lime and yoghurt, or just plain.
I once saw a fresh food market operator eating an avocado as if it were an apple! The skin is inedible and bitter although the fruit closest to the skin is loaded with nutrients but I doubt if he was concerned about avocado health benefits – he was hungry and that avocado was just what he needed!
I like to cut a wedge out of an avocado, make little cuts in chunks along the wedge and eat it the way I do a mango or pawpaw. Very casual - and delicious!
Then there's delicious avocado oil. Cold pressed, a distinctive dull green in colour, it has a highish smoke point, so is suitable for use either in salad dressings or for cooking, in cakes or for shallow frying.