On the Table

Avocados are high in healthy fat

suzanne@onthetable.netJuly 31, 2012 

No need to fear avocados. As oily, fat-rich foods go, this one’s a winner.

If you don’t already include them in your diet, they’re a good addition and are versatile, too.

Avocado trees are native to Central Mexico, but they grow in the U.S. along the coast from central to southern California. Their fruit is a fist-sized oval orb with a pebbly, thick dark-green skin.

The skin is so thick and protective that growers don’t need lots of pesticides to produce them. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group, in fact, includes the avocado in its list of the 15 fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticide residues.

Avocados are high in fat, but they’re lower in calories than equivalent amounts of butter or cheese. A few thin slices add only about 50 calories.

Most of those calories come from heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids naturally present in the fruit. Avocados are free of cholesterol and sodium and are very low in saturated fat.

They contain dietary fiber and several vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin E and B vitamins.

Unless you plan to use them immediately, choose firm or even hard avocados and let them ripen on your kitchen countertop for a few days until the fruit is soft enough to give a little when you squeeze it.

When you’re ready to use it, wash the fruit then cut it lengthwise around the large pit in the middle. Lift out the pit with a spoon and scoop the fruit out of the peel, or cut away the peel with a paring knife and slice the fruit into pieces.

It’s messy. Remember, too, to squeeze lemon or lime juice on fresh avocado slices to help delay them from turning brown.

Avocados are easy to find anytime of year, but they are actually in season from spring through fall. Popular ways to use them include:

• Mashed and mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and lime juice or salsa to make guacamole. Eat it with tortilla chips or add it to a burrito or plate of nachos.

• Sliced in salads or on a cold sandwich.

• Mashed and spread on toast or whole grain crackers.

In this case, the green fat is good fat.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net

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