The Health Benefits of Avocados

by Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., President, Produce for Better Health Foundation

The pleasing taste and creamy texture of avocados is innately appealing. Beyond satisfying flavor, avocados provide important nutrients and phytochemicals necessary during the early developmental years of life and beyond.

Nutrient-dense avocados are an ideal food to introduce when babies are old enough to eat table foods. Soft in texture and digestible, avocados come with their own natural "packaging," which makes them convenient for meals.

In the later years of life, avocados promote successful aging by providing nutrients that have been linked to disease prevention, including folate, beta-sitosterol, lutein and monounsaturated fat. Avocados also can help maintain a healthy weight as a delicious, satisfying alternative to unhealthy sandwich spreads and salad dressings laden with harmful cholesterol and saturated fat.

Compared to other fruits, ounce-per-ounce, California avocados rank highest in the following key nutrients that can promote optimum growth and help protect against a variety of diseases:

Folate-Lowers homocysteine levels in the blood stream, which may prevent heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease; reduces the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and promotes healthy cell and tissue development.

Vitamin E-Helps slow the aging process and protects against heart disease and various forms of cancer.

Monounsaturated Fat-Helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol. Avocados are one of the only fruits that provide babies with the "good" fat. Monounsaturated fat is essential for cognitive and visual development.

Beta-Sitosterol-Helps inhibit the absorption of cholesterol and promotes lower cholesterol levels.

Lutein-Protects against prostate cancer and eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Glutathione-Functions as an antioxidant like vitamin E to neutralize free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to disease.

California Avocado Sweet Spread is a delicious substitute for butter on your toast in the morning. Spread on whole grain toast or English muffins or serve as an afternoon snack on crackers. It also makes a great dip for strips of red bell pepper, jicama or celery sticks. To ripen an avocado, simply place in a paper bag with a banana or apple at room temperature until ready to eat, about 2-5 days.

California Avocado Sweet Spread

1/5 ripe Genuine California Avocado (1 oz.)

21/2teaspoons orange marmalade

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 slice whole wheat toast

In medium bowl, mash avocado with a fork. Stir in marmalade, then ginger to taste. Spread on toast and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional information per serving: calories: 182, total fat: 5.9g, saturated fat: 0.7g, % calories from fat: 29%, protein: 5g, carbohydrates: 28g, cholesterol: 0mg, dietary fiber: 3g, sodium: 173mg

Avocados are a member of 5 A Day The Color Way's green group. Eating a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables every day helps you stay healthy and energetic.

Courtesy of NAPSnet.