One of my favorite fruits are 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, California mail carrier Rudolph Hass patented his namesake variety in 1935.
The Hass variety, recognized for its large size and 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 and had little flesh. Hass avocados have a much higher nutrient density than their smooth-skinned relatives.
While most folks eat avocados because they taste amazing when added to salads, as guacamole or in the recipes below, these berry fruits are packed with nutrition.
Avocados are an easy way to ”eat your veggies” and are packed with nutrients. 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 phytonutrients in our vegetables and fruits.
According to a study cited by George Mateljan, author of ”The World’s Healthiest Foods,” ”added avocado has been shown to increase carotenoid absorption from all of the foods listed above. Anywhere from two to six times as much absorption was found to occur with the added avocado!”
So, when we add avocados 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 their 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, those of us who have been enjoying avocados solely due to their yumminess can now give ourselves a pat on the back for supporting our health as well.
On Sunday, June 17 at 2 p.m., I will be presenting the free class, ”Avocado Awesomeness.” We’ll explore the health benefits of avocados and share favorite ways to enjoy avocados. Enjoy the recipes I have included this week – and come to class and share your own favorite ways to enjoy this healthy star of the produce department. Salud!
CHOPPED SALAD WITH AVOCADO RANCH DRESSING
1 cup Natural Grocers bulk walnut halves
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and sliced into ¼-inch coins (If your carrots are thick, slice them in half lengthwise first)
1 medium cucumber, stem and seeds removed and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small red onion, halved from root to stem and sliced into ¼-inch slices
8-ounce block of mozzarella or cheddar cheese, diced into ¼-inch cubes
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium avocado
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp granulated onion powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Bear Mountain honey
2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
1/4 cup water
6 hard-boiled eggs
Hard-boil the eggs using your favorite method. Continue preparing the rest of the recipe while the eggs boil.
Toast the walnuts over medium heat, stirring frequently until fragrant and very lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer walnuts to a plate to cool.
Add all dressing ingredients (avocado through water) to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Combine the carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes and onion in a large serving bowl.
Coarsely chop the walnuts. Peel the eggs and slice into quarters lengthwise.
To serve, add the dressing to the bowl of chopped vegetables and mix well. Add the lettuce and toss until well combined. Divide the salad among serving plates and top each with an equal portion of walnuts, cheese and eggs.
Source: Heather Pratt – Natural Grocers
CHOCOLATE POWERHOUSE PUDDING
INGREDIENTS (Yields 3 cups)
3 medium ripe bananas
3 medium ripe avocados
3/4 cup Natural Grocers coconut oil
3/4 cup Natural Grocers bulk cocoa powder
3 tbsp Natural Grocers raw honey, maple syrup or coconut nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Mash banana and avocado together with a fork until smooth, with minimal lumps and well combined.
Add in coconut oil, cocoa powder, honey and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined and a smooth pudding texture develops.
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.