Avocados seem too luscious to be healthful, but they contain many valuable nutrients. Yes, they do contain a lot of fat, however, it is highly monounsaturated, the kind that's associated with a healthy heart. Ounce for ounce, the avocado contains 60% more potassium than bananas, which are usually thought of as an exemplary potassium source. Avocados are also rich in vitamin E, provide substantial amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. They also contain iron, copper, and magnesium. Avocados contain glutathione, and antioxidant with anti-carcinogenic potential. They also contain a significant amount of a cholesterol-lowering phytosterol called beta-sitosterol.

Although there are many varieties of avocados, California varieties are more widely available nationwide. They are considerably higher in fat, thus “creamier” and more flavorful. The most popular California avocado ia the Hass, which weighs about 1/2 pound and has a pebbly black skin when ripe.

When shopping for avocados, select heavy, unblemished ones. If the avocado is rock hard, it will need a few days to ripen. If an avocado yields slightly to gentle pressure, it is ripe enough to slice. If pressing the fruit leaves a small dent, it is too ripe to slice, but is suitable for mashing. If pressing leaves a large dent, the fruit is overripe, and the flesh will have darkened and spoiled.

Hard avocados ripen at room temperature in three to six days. To speed up the process, place them in a paper bag, preferably with an apple. Never put hard avocados in the refrigerator because they will never ripen. Keep ripe avocados in the refrigerator and use within two to three days.

To pit an avocado, cut it lengthwise all the way around, working around the pit. Then, gently twist the two halves apart. Tap the blade of a heavy knife into the pit, and twist gently to release the pit from the flesh. You can then slice the flesh inside the skin and scoop it out with a spoon. If you wish to remove the flesh without slicing, you can scoop out the entire half.

The flesh of an avocado that has been cut will turn dark within a few minutes after being exposed to air. To delay darkening, rub the slices with lemon or lime juice. Add lemon or lime juice to mashed avocado when making guacamole or similar dips. Also, pressing plastic wrap firmly over the cut surface of a halved avocado, or onto the surface of a bowl of mashed avocado, will deter darkening.

Nutrition Chart for half of a California Avocado:

Calories 153Total fat (g) 15
Saturated fat (g) 2.2    Monounsaturated fat (g) 10
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 1.8Dietary fiber (g) 4.2
Protein (g) 2Carbohydrate (g) 6
Sodium (mg) 10Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.2
Folate (mcg) 57Copper (mg) 0.3
Potassium (mg) 548

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