Photo by David Grace.
Many of us may remember when the nutrition and diet experts advised us to steer clear of guacamole when dining out at our favorite Mexican restaurants.
But times have changed and now the experts tell us that the once-taboo ingredient in guacamole — the avocado — is actually quite good for us.
"Back in the '90s when we were all jumping on the low-fat band wagon, we were trying to eliminate all fats, which included avocados," said Lisa Gilreath, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Indian Path's Health Resources Center. "We would tell people what to watch out for and that included avocados, olives, nuts and peanut butter. But now we know all fats are not created equal and certainly we have eased up on our fat restrictions somewhat if they are healthy forms of fat."
It turns out the avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fat — a healthy fat.
"If you're comparing a spoonful of avocado or guacamole to a spoonful of butter or cream cheese, the avocado is by far the better choice. While the calories or the overall fat content may be similar, the type of fat is very different and the way your body uses it will be very different," Gilreath said.
Dr. Brian Shaffer, a primary care provider with Holston Medical Group, says anyone can eat a lot of avocado and not have any issues.
"I think anybody who has a history of heart disease should definitely incorporate avocado into their diet. But really it's something that should be incorporated into everybody's diet," he said. "It's been a long-time misnomer that we should avoid avocados. In moderation, they are good for anybody."
According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can have beneficial health effects when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fats or trans fats. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
"Avocados are an excellent source of about 20 different vitamins and minerals," Gilreath said. "That includes the fat soluble vitamins like vitamin K and vitamin E. They're also a great source of vitamin C and folic acid and B6. They're very low in sodium and they're cholesterol-free. That's another selling point. Most foods that are high in fat are also high in cholesterol, but the avocado is cholesterol-free. They're a natural source of plant sterols. Plant sterols are known to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke."
Because of its smooth and creamy texture and consistency, Gilreath says a great way to reap some of the nutritional benefits of this little fruit — yes, it's a fruit and not a vegetable — is to spread some avocado on a bagel or piece of toast in the morning.
"You can eat them for breakfast, lunch or supper," she said. "You can slice them up or cut them into chunks to put in a salad. You can use them in smoothies. It's a great first food for babies. Just feed it to them like cereal or applesauce."
Gilreath says to not let the fat in the avocado scare you away.
"It's such a nutrient-dense food," she said. "Don't look at a food and say, 'This is high in fat. I can't eat it.' In this case, the avocado, yes, it is high in fat, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. You get those 20 other vitamins and minerals and all the health benefits of decreased cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of cancer. You get a lot of value for the fat that you spend."
Gilreath says the fat and cholesterol guidelines for a 2,000 calorie diet include a total fat intake of 65 grams.
"If one-fifth of an avocado contains 4.5 grams of total fat and you're allowed 65 grams for the day, there's room in there for plenty of avocado or plenty of guacamole," she said.
Below are some recipes using avocados that you might want to try.
Award Winning Guacamole
6 ripe, fresh Hass avocados, seeded and peeled 1/2 onion, chopped 1 large clove garlic, crushed 1 small tomato, diced 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated 2 green chiles, diced 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice 1 tsp. seasoned salt
In a large mixing bowl, coarsely mash avocados, leaving some chunks. Add remaining ingredients and mix to blend. Serve with crisp tortilla chips. To store guacamole, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.
Turkey and Avocado Sandwich Wedges
3 1 1/2 pound round, flat sourdough bread loaves 2 ripe, fresh Hass avocados, peeled and seeded, divided 3 Tbsp. salsa 3 6- by 1 1/2-inch strips roasted red pepper 1 pound thinly sliced smoked turkey 3 very thin slices red onion, halved and separated into rings 3 1-ounce slices pepper jack cheese 2 romaine lettuce leaves
Cut a 4-inch circle out of the top of the bread; tear out the inside of the bread in the bottom section to make a shell. Mash one avocado and mix with salsa; spread over the bottom of the bread. Layer pepper strips, onions, half the turkey and then the cheese inside the bread. Slice the remaining avocado and place on top of the cheese. Top with lettuce and remaining t u r k e y. Replace the bread top and press down firmly to compress ingredients. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into wedges just before serving. Pressing the avocado mixture inside the roll keeps the air out, so these sandwiches can be made several hours in advance of serving.
1 avocado cut in 6 pieces lengthwise 1 red onion cut in thin slices 2 tomatoes chopped , seeds removed 2 or 3 Tbsp. of parsley or cilantro leaves (washed and patted dry) Salt and pepper to taste Olive oil
Cut avocado lengthwise and peel skin off. Arrange on platter; top with chopped tomatoes, red onion slices and parsley or cilantro leaves. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Serve cold or at room temp. Great with barbecue meats or fish.
Avocado Breakfast Melts
2 English muffins, sliced 1 Tbsp. butter, softened 4 slices Canadian bacon 1 ripe fresh California avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced into 12 slices 4 slices baby Swiss cheese
Butter each English muffin. Heat a skillet to medium. Place English muffins, butter side down, on hot skillet. Cook until slightly toasted (approximately 1 minute).
Assemble open-faced sandwiches as follows: 1 slice toasted English muffin (butter side up); 1 slice Canadian bacon; 3 slices California avocado; 4 slices baby Swiss cheese.
Place open-faced sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place under preheated broiler in oven for 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve warm.