There’s more to avocados than being the stars of guacamole, that ever-popular Mexican dip. Native to northern Mexico and Central America, avocados were consumed by the Aztecs for thousands of years before the Europeans found them upon arrival in the Americas.
It's a Fruit
It turns out the Aztecs were on to something — despite being relatively high in fat and calories (a medium fruit has about 250 calories and 23 grams of fat), avocados are one of the world’s most potent superfruits.
Yes, we said fruit! Technically a berry, the avocado contains the highest percentage of protein — about four grams — of any fruit, as well as the most fat. However, this monosaturated fat, oleic acid, actually makes your body healthy, reducing bad cholesterol levels in the blood and thereby lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke. While most fats are stored as body fats, monounsaturated fat is more likely to be burned for energy.
Packed with Nutrients
Often referred to as the “nutrient booster,” oleic acid also helps your body increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. In a study, one cup of avocado added to a simple salad composed of romaine lettuce, spinach and carrots, increased the absorption of carotenoids by 200-400 percent! And let’s not forget the other nutrients packed into an avocado: vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fiber. A medium-sized avocado contains ten grams of fiber, including both insoluble and soluble fibers. The former keeps you regular, while the latter helps control your appetite by making you feel full.
The Right Kind of Ripe
Choosing the perfect avocado can be difficult. A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft, but should have no dark sunken spots. A firmer, less ripe avocado can easily be ripened at home in a fruit basket at room temperature or in a brown paper bag. There is no need to splurge on organic avocados either. The thick, tough skin prevents the fruit from absorbing pesticides, making avocados one of the most chemical-free foods. So whether you’re whipping up some guacamole with the popular Hass variety or adding half a fruit to a smoothie, avocados make a great-tasting, healthy and easy-to-incorporate addition to any diet.