The avocado is a fruit, which grows on trees native to Mexico, Central, and South America. The first avocado tree came to the United States in 1871, and gained popularity with Americans. By 1950 there were more than 25 different types of avocados available in California.1
Avocados have thick, dark green and purple, textured skin. The flesh ranges in color from dark green where it touches the skin, to pale yellow around the seed. The skin of the avocado acts as a natural preservative, keeping the fruit fresh and free from insects and bacteria.1
Avocados are eaten raw, cooked, or used for their oil. Avocado oil can be used as a cooking oil, or as an avocado carrier oil for essential oils. Throughout this article, you will learn the nutritional aspects of the avocado, as well as the benefits of eating this creamy fruit.
Is Avocado a Fruit?
One of the major arguments had by food enthusiasts around the globe is whether to call avocado a fruit or vegetable.
According to the University of California’s Department of Plant Sciences, a fruit is the fully developed ovary of a flowering plant. A vegetable, on the other hand, is the edible portion of an herb plant, and is classified by which part of the plant is being eaten. For example, carrots and turnips are considered roots, while lettuce is considered a leaf. Therefore, almost all fruits have seeds, while almost no vegetables do. By this definition, avocado is a fruit, because of the way it grows, and the large seed at its core.2
The following avocado nutrition facts are based on one skinless, seedless fruit, or 136g of avocado.3
- Avocado calories: 227
- Carbs in avocado: 11.75 g
- Protein in avocado: 2.67 g
- Fat in avocado: 20.96 g
- Dietary fiber in avocado: 9.2 g
- Sugar in avocado: 0.41 g
Avocados also provide several nutrients and vitamins, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin C, sodium, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin E.3
Are Avocados Good for You?
Avocado is higher in fat than other fruits, leading many to wonder, “is avocado good for you?” Aside from the wide assortment of vitamins and nutrients making up the nutritional value of avocado, there are several avocado benefits to consider, including the healthy fat it provides.
According to a 1996 human study, avocados may improve cholesterol by decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels.4 In 2013, researchers published a scientific survey that found that individuals who consumed avocados had a lower BMI, waist circumference, and reduced risk of metabolic syndromes.5 Avocado has also been noted for its natural anti-inflammatory properties, when studied in a clinical trial that looked at natural alternatives for patients with osteoarthritis.6
How to Pick Avocado
Now that you know the health advantages to avocado, you might be wondering how to tell if an avocado is ripe. Due to the thick, firm skin, to select a ripe avocado at the local grocer, you must first touch it.
Avocados often arrive firm, because once soft, they expire quickly. To choose an avocado which is ready to eat, hold it in your palm, and without pressing your fingertips into the skin, gently squeeze. Pressing too firmly in one spot can bruise or dent the fruit, so you want to extend equal pressure against the surface as you squeeze. Your avocado is ripe if it yields to firm, but gentle pressure.
How to Ripen Avocados
If you want to know how to ripen an avocado quickly at home, there is plenty of advice to be found online. Anecdotal evidence supports placing unripe avocados in a paper bag alongside a banana or apple for 2-3 days. As the avocado sits, the skin will darken and flesh will soften, until it is ready to be eaten.
How to Cut an Avocado
With tough skin and a large avocado seed, figuring out how to eat an avocado can be tricky for the first time. With a sharp knife, slice around the avocado deep enough that you feel the pit inside. Once cut all the way around, you can pull the two halves apart and scoop out the seed. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, or use your knife to peel off the remaining skin and cut the flesh into slices.
Storing and Freezing Avocados
After you cut any fruit, storage becomes an issue. Once oxidization occurs, the flesh of avocados will start to brown; this might leave you wondering how to store avocado properly. To prevent browning, and retain freshness for as long as possible, it’s recommended to leave the pit in the portion you are saving, and brush the exposed flesh with lemon juice.7
Another storage question asked by new avocado eaters is, “can you freeze avocados?” Reviews from avocado eaters online suggest that avocado flesh does change when frozen, providing a texture that isn’t as smooth and creamy for eating raw. A great suggestion for using up your frozen avocado is to blend it into a guacamole, or use it in a smoothie.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Dreher, M. L. & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 53(7), 738-750. DOI: 1080/10408398.2011.556759
- University of California. (2017). Vegetable research and information center. University of California, Department of Plant Sciences. Retrieved on November 15, 2017 from http://vric.ucdavis.edu/main/faqs.htm
- United States Department of Agriculture (2016). 09038, avocados, raw, California. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on November 15, 2017 from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2157
- Lopez, L. R., Frati, M. A. C., Hernandez, D. B. C., Cervantes, M. S., Hernandez, L. M. H. & Juarez, C. M. L. S. (1996). Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Archives of Medical Research, 27(4), 519-523. Retrieved on November 15, 2017 from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8987188
- Fulgonia, V. L., Dreher, M. & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutritional Journal. DOI: 1186/1475-2891-12-1
- Blotman, F., Maheau, E., Wulwik, A., Caspard, H. & Lopez, A. (1997). Efficacy and safety of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. A prospective, multicenter, three-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Review du Rhumatisme, 64(12), 825-834. Retrieved n November 15, 2017 from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9476272
- Seattle Public Utilities. (n.d.). Freezer storage tips. Seattle Public Utilities. Retrieved on November 15, 2017 from https://www.seattle.gov/util/cs/groups/public/@spu/@conservation/documents/webcontent/1_043450.pdf