Article: Avocados – A true super food!

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This month’s question comes from several guests who attended the Lodi Art and Culture’s Annual Open House a few weeks ago. I did a cooking demonstration and tasting to promote my hands-on nutrition classes offered in the summer and chose a recipe that showcased, among other superfoods, avocados. While the samples of my Cowboy Salad were a huge hit, several guests expressed concern about eating avocados, “I love avocados, but didn’t think that I could eat them very often, because aren’t they basically just fat?”

Eat Smart
For the same calories as a handful of potato chips (~160 calories), you can indulge in half of an avocado, which will not only add an amazing richness to your meals, but will also provide you with 20 essential nutrients and the amount of fiber in 3 slices of whole wheat bread!  Avocados provide Folate and Vitamin B6, both linked in recent studies to fewer deaths from heart failure in men, and fewer deaths from stroke and heart disease in women. Avocados are a wonderful source of potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Copper, Vitamin E, cancer-fighting carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene) and a special monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) that can help lower blood cholesterol levels. But wait, more good news… not only are avocados also cholesterol free and extremely low in sodium, adding a few slices to your salad or veggie sandwich, or a few chunks to salsa or on top of a bowl of your favorite soup, can increase the amount of nutrients your body absorbs from all of the vegetables you eat, you’ll absorb 5 to 15 times the amount, as compared to an avocado-free meal!

What a gorgeous avocado!

What a gorgeous avocado!

Shop Smart
Since the Hass variety are available year round, you never have to wait for avocados to be “in season”. Don’t be afraid to buy avocados that are not quite ripe, better too hard than too soft!  They should be heavy for their size and free from dark spots, cracks or bruises, and still have the little stem in place, because when it falls out, air can enter and darken the flesh.  If the avocado is a bit too firm to eat, let it ripen on the counter for a few days or place it in a paper bag to quicken the process.  Ripe avocados can wait for you in the fridge for several days. Watch for the supermarket ads, as avocados can cost as little as $0.65 each!

Cook Smart 
How can you add them to breakfast? Perhaps on top of a black bean and salsa or broccoli scramble! Why not use avocado as a spread on whole grain bread instead of mayo at lunchtime?  And at dinner, be sure they are a regular addition to salads!  So don’t delay, eat smart by enjoying more avocados today!  Your body (including your taste buds) will thank you! For more recipe ideas: http://www.avocado.org/recipes/

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.

My article was published in the Lodi News Sentinel on November 3, 2010.

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