Tips for healthy Living Featuring: California Hass Avocados
Hass is Boss
If there were one food I cannot live without, it would be the avocado. Not only is it the life of the party dressed as guacamole, but nutritionally the avocado is a superfood rock star, versatile in both sweet and savory recipes – and even a key ingredient in creating a natural face mask for smooth skin.
Of the more than 20 varieties out there, hands down my favorite is the Hass. The Hass avocado is native to Mexico and Central America, with evidence dating back over 12,000 years. Botanically, avocado is a fruit: it’s actually a large berry that contains a single seed.
Today, Mexico is the largest producer, with the next local production in southern California. Growing season begins late March and wraps up by mid-September.
Nutritionally speaking, avocados are an excellent source of potassium, which helps control blood pressure. They are loaded with fiber, which, among its many benefits, helps you feel full longer.
They are, indeed, high in calories – but before you wince, know that these are the kind of calories you actively want. The type of fat in avocados is monounsaturated, which may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving risk factors – one of the most well-known is reducing LDL cholesterol – the so-called “bad” kind. If most of your dietary fat is monounsaturated from foods such as avocados and good-quality olive oil such as the Sigona’s Fresh Press line, your heart will thank you.
Thanks to their smooth, buttery texture, Hass avocados are used both in savory and sweet dishes. You will find them adding bright color to the ubiquitous California sushi roll and providing creaminess to balance a zesty gazpacho. They also add rich flavor and texture to sandwiches and salads. But don’t stop there! Avocado can also be added to a smoothie in place of banana to give an extra smooth consistency.
Or make a chocolate pudding by pureeing two avocados with two teaspoons vanilla, ½ cup cocoa, ½ cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup coconut milk and a pinch of cinnamon. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Yum!
Want a quick snack that will fill you up, give you lots of fiber and good fat? Try this: take half an avocado and pour about a teaspoon or so of Sigona’s Fresh Press basil-infused extra virgin olive oil into the well left after removing the seed. Add a sprinkle of natural salt – or if you are reducing salt, a splash of lemon or lime juice adds a nice sharp contrast to the creamy avocado and olive oil. Or you could fill the well with fresh salsa at your preferred heat. Just scoop it out and enjoy by the spoonful. By the way, that’s about 150 calories – the same as a small handful of potato chips, but far more filling and good for you.
Want smooth skin? Mash half a ripe avocado in a bowl (eat the other half!), apply to your face, leave on for 15 minutes, rinse in cool water then pat dry.
When purchasing, avocados can take up to five days to ripen, so choose carefully, depending on when you plan to eat them. You can speed the ripening process by storing them in a paper bag along with an apple or a banana. When the outside skin is black and yields to gentle pressure, they’re ready to eat or refrigerate. When preparing, it is a good idea to wash them before cutting so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the knife into the pulp. If you’re not eating them right away, just squeeze lemon juice over the slices to retain their bright green color.
So enjoy this versatile fruit in its many ways, from a chip dip to a pudding or on their own – your heart couldn’t be happier!
Sharon Stewart is our latest and greatest Tips for Healthy Living writer. Sharon Stewart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She offers personalized, one-on-one nutrition counseling in the Palo Alto area. She specializes in clients with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders as well as nutrition check-ups for general well-being. She also works for Plus Health Management, providing nutrition counseling to the employees on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. Feel free to contact her over at Sharon Stewart, R.D. Nutrition Consulting.