Written by Juliette Scarfe
The avocado is colloquially known as the Alligator Pear, reflecting its shape and the leather-like appearance of its skin. Avocado is derived from the Aztec word "ahuacatl". Avocados are the fruit from Persea Americana, a tall evergreen tree that can grow up to 65 feet in height. Avocados vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 pounds depending upon the variety.
Did you know that the fats in avocados are actually good for you? Although they are fruits, avocados have a high fat content of between 71 to 88% of their total calories—about 20 times the average for other fruits. A typical avocado contains 30 grams of fat, but 20 of these fat grams are health-promoting monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. Therefore, avocados are high in fat, but its monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy and can actually help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Research has shown that people on a calorie-restricted diet can enjoy avocados and still reach their weight loss goals. In fact, the American Heart Association encourages substituting the monounsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts and olive oil for many of the fats more commonly used by consumers. Researchers are also finding that some of the phytonutrients (phyto = plant) found in avocados may also help reduce cholesterol levels.
In addition, avocados contain an amazing array of phytonutrients. Included are phytosterols (especially beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol); carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin); flavonoids (epicatechin and epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate); and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols. Alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and oleic acid are key fats provided by avocado. Avocados are a good source of bone supportive vitamin K as well as heart-healthy dietary fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and foliate. Avocados are also a good source of energy-producing vitamin B5 and muscle-healthy potassium; in fact, they are higher in potassium than a medium banana.