Avocado, an exotic fruit with many benefits
Fruit of a tree native to Central and South America, avocado is prized for its tender flesh like butter. A true chameleon of appetizers and starters, it can be prepared in a thousand and one ways, whether with a vinaigrette, salad, mousse, stuffed or in the traditional guacamole. Avocado can also become a delicious and original sandwich filling. Although it is known for its high fat content, it also contains a very wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Characteristics of avocado:
- Rich in fiber;
- Rich in “good fat”;
- Source of vitamin K;
- Protects the cardiovascular system;
- Stimulates intestinal transit.
What is a Avocado?
Avocado identity card
- Family: Lauraceae;
- Origin: Central and South America;
- Season: October to April;
- Green color ;
- Flavor: Sweet and creamy.
Characteristics of avocado
During the harvest, an avocado weighs on average 300g. He has a dark green skin, see black, which can be smooth or rough. It encloses a green, creamy flesh, and a large nucleus.
Word from the nutritionist
Avocado is a high calorie food even if the lipids it contains are “good fats”. It is therefore necessary to limit its consumption to half an avocado twice a week.
For 100g of avocado:
|Beta carotene||185 µg|
|Vitamin B6||0.28 mg|
|Vitamin B9||54 µg|
12 benefits of avocado: why eat it?
- Avocado is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging.
- With 6.7 g of fiber per 100 g of flesh, avocado is considered a very high source of fiber. Dietary fibers, which are found only in plants, include a set of substances that are not digested by the body. A high-fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer and can help satisfy appetite by providing a feeling of fullness more quickly.
- Although avocado is rich in fat, it is mostly made up of unsaturated fats (mainly monounsaturated), considered “good” fats for cardiovascular health. In humans, a study has shown that replacing part of the fat in the diet with avocado for three weeks can lead to a reduction in blood lipids, without decreasing the concentration of HDL cholesterol ( “Good” cholesterol).
- Avocado is an excellent source of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy present in the food we eat. It also participates in several stages of the synthesis (production) of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses) and hemoglobin.
- Avocado is an excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for the synthesis (manufacture) of proteins that act in blood clotting (both in stimulation and in inhibition of blood clotting). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is produced by intestinal bacteria, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.
- Avocado is a good source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- Avocado is a good source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.
- Avocado is a source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
- Avocado is a source of magnesium. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Avocado is a source of potassium. In the body, potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Avocado is a source of iron for men only, since the needs of women are greater than those of men. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
- Avocado is a source of zinc. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. Zinc also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), the storage and the release of insulin.
Choose the right Avocado
Choose a rather heavy avocado, not too firm and without black spots or bruises. The color of the skin is not an indication of maturity but rather of the variety. Avoid fruits that are very soft or with withered skin because they are too ripe.
The different varieties
The avocado varieties are classified into three sub-groups: Mexican, Guatemalan and Caribbean, depending on their degree of tolerance to cold and the various characteristics of their fruits: size, nutritional composition, flavor, etc. What you need to know in practice is that the fruits of the West Indian subgroup (which we sometimes call “Florida avocados” because in this State, we cultivate mainly the varieties of this sub- group) can contain up to two times less fat than those of the other two. Unfortunately, this information does not appear on products (fresh or frozen) available on the market. In any case, the Haas variety, which belongs to the Guatemalan subgroup and whose fruits are particularly rich in fat, is found mainly on our markets.
Avocados are often still green in our markets, which is not necessarily a drawback, as they can easily be ripened at room temperature by keeping them in a brown paper bag. If you want to speed up the process, you put an apple in the bag: by releasing ethylene, it will ripen the fruit, which should be ready to eat two to five days later.
If there is a surplus, it is possible to freeze the avocado. We will first transform it into mash, because it freezes badly when it comes whole or sliced. Wash the fruit, cut it lengthwise in half, remove the stone, peel and mash the flesh, and add lemon juice (about a tablespoon for two avocados). Put the puree in a rigid container leaving a centimeter of vacuum and freeze. Do not keep more than five months in the freezer.
How to cook it? How to match it?
Salty, sweet or both?
There would be three types of avocado lovers: those who like it salty, those who prefer it sweet and those who taste it in two ways. Around the world, this unusual product has been adapted to local cuisine and, depending on whether it is on the sweet or savory side of the flavor card, it is prepared as a vegetable or as a fruit.
Avocado flesh oxidizes easily, we always recommend using stainless steel utensils to work it. For the same reason, if you do not intend to serve it immediately after it has been cut or crushed, you will sprinkle it with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar.
As a vegetable
Because of its richness in tannin, avocado is generally not cooked: it risks becoming bitter. If you want to integrate it into hot dishes – stews, omelets, soups – you do it at the very end of cooking. You can also reheat it over a very low heat in the oven, then stuff it with the ingredients of your choice, scrambled eggs, for example.
More commonly, avocado is eaten raw. Besides the plain half-avocado, served with a dressing or stuffed, the flesh can be used in different preparations:
- adding it to sushi;
- in a cold sauce for poached fish, mashing it with capers, green olives stuffed with red pepper, lime juice and olive oil;
- adding it to the tacos; in Mexico, it is used squarely as butter, hence the vernacular name of “buttery fruit”.
The Aztecs ate avocado puree which they called ahuaca-hulli, a word which, by distortion, gave birth to guacamole. Originally, the dish did not include onions, lime or coriander leaves, these three ingredients being unknown in America before the arrival of the Spanish.
Guacamole, which Mexicans decorate with jalapeno peppers and sometimes tomatoes, goes well with many sauces. If avocado is essential, the other ingredients vary depending on whether it is prepared:
- Japanese style: grated daikon, soy sauce, wasabi, rice vinegar, sesame seeds and dried seaweed;
- Spanish-style: chopped olives, toasted almonds, parsley and a little brandy;
- Argentinian: lightly toasted saffron sprigs and thyme;
- Southwest style: corn kernels;
- Californian-style: goat cheese, roasted pistachios, coriander leaves and garlic;
- Jamaican style: mango, coconut, pineapple, red pepper and lime juice;
- à la parisienne: gray shallots, tarragon, lemon juice and dry vermouth;
- Italian style: parmesan, grilled pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and wine vinegar.
To avoid discoloration of the fruit, prepare the dish only when serving it or keep it in the refrigerator, covering the bowl with plastic film so that it remains in contact with the preparation, in order to exclude air.
Anyone who has never eaten avocado as a fruit should try it in a mash with bananas and pineapple in roughly equal parts, and a little honey. Or mix the flesh with cream cheese and pineapple juice and serve on pieces of fruit.
- In Brazil, it is crushed and added to sorbets, ice creams and milkshakes.
- In Java, you mix your flesh with very strong and sweet black coffee, while in the rest of Indonesia, you mix it with milk, coffee and rum.
- Asians living in Hawaii take it sweet with other fruits such as pineapple, orange, grapefruit, date or banana.
Contraindications and allergies
Vitamin K and anticoagulants
Avocado contains a high amount of vitamin K. This vitamin, necessary among other things for blood clotting, can be produced by the body in addition to being found in certain foods. People taking anticoagulant drugs, such as those marketed under the names Coumadin®, Warfilone® and Sintrom®, should eat a diet in which the vitamin K content is relatively stable from day to day. Health Canada reminds that avocado can modify the blood concentration of anticoagulants. It is therefore preferable not to consume too much at a time.
Avocado and latex allergy
Studies have shown that an allergy to latex, a material used in particular for making medical gloves, can be associated with an allergy to certain foods such as avocado. Researchers have identified hevein as the compound believed to be responsible for avocado allergy in people with latex allergies. Listed symptoms of avocado allergy could include hives and even anaphylaxis. It is therefore recommended for people allergic to latex to carry out food allergy tests, including avocado, banana, chestnut and kiwi.
History of the Avocado
The lawyer takes its name from the Spanish aguacate, which borrowed it from the Aztec ahuacatl, whose meaning is “testicle”, by analogy with the shape of this organ.
The avocado kernel gives a milky liquid when pressed, with the scent and flavor of almonds. Because of its tannin content, this liquid turns red when exposed to air. The Spanish conquerors drew an indelible ink from it which was used to write many official documents which are today preserved in the archives of the city of Popayàn, in Colombia.
The avocado probably comes from Mexico and perhaps also from Guatemala, where many wild species are still found today. Thanks to the discovery of nuclei in caves, we know that the Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico and Guatemala ate the fruit about 10,000 years ago. It is also believed that they cultivated it 7,000 or 8,000 years ago, as much larger, oval-shaped nuclei have been discovered at other sites dating from this time, signs, experts say, of improvements attributable to human intervention. If avocado was so popular in pre-Columbian America, it seems that it was because it gave the Amerindians the precious fats that were otherwise lacking in their diet.
After the Conquest, the Spanish made the avocado tree, as well as its fruit, known to the rest of the world, introducing it to Europe in 1519, then to the Antilles, as well as in practically all the tropical and sub-tropical regions where reigned conditions conducive to its cultivation.
Long reserved for large tables
In the West, the fruit will remain for a long time a food reserved for the aristocracy and the big bourgeoisie. It was not until the Americans began to cultivate it on a large scale at the beginning of the 20th century before it found its place on the plate of ordinary people.
Today, avocado is grown in many countries in South and Central America, Africa and Oceania, as well as in southern Europe and the United States (Florida and California). An oil is used from the fruit pulp which is widely used in massage therapy and cosmetology.