Avocados are a healthy and versatile superfood. You can find them in everything from guacamole dips to salads, smoothies, wraps and brownies. They deserve their healthy reputation. Just one avocado contains around 20 vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of potassium, folate, vitamins B, C, and E plus they are packed with natural plant chemicals which act as antioxidants. They are low in sugar and high in fibre. They are also high in monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy fat that can help reduce cholesterol.
All about avocados
The avocado is technically a fruit, though most people consider it to be a vegetable. The avocado is native to central America and it’s the fruit of the avocado tree, Persea Americana. There are 4 main varieties of avocado; the Hass, which has a dark, knobbly skin, the Ettinger and Fuerte varieties, which are smooth and shaped like a pear, and the Nabal, which is more spherical in shape.
The avocado is known as the butter pear, because of its smooth flesh, or the alligator pear, due to its colour and the texture of its skin. The flesh can be eaten but the skin and seeds should be discarded.
The health benefits of avocados
They are a good source of potassium
Potassium is an important mineral and is responsible for some important functions in the body, including blood pressure regulation. Avocados contain around 14% of the recommended daily allowance of potassium, which is more than bananas, which contain around 10%.
Avocados are packed with healthy fats
Avocados are high in fat but it’s monounsaturated fat, the healthy kind. This type of fat keeps the heart healthy, reduces cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart disease. Most of the fat in avocados is oleic acid, which is a fatty acid that has been researched for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Avocados are a good source of fibre
The body can’t digest fibre, but it’s essential for digestive health. Most western diets don’t contain enough fibre. It can also help to control weight and keep blood sugar levels steady. An average sized avocado contains around 7g of fibre, which is 27% of the recommended daily amount.
Avocados can help reduce cholesterol
High cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, which is the most common cause of death worldwide. The effects of avocado on reducing cholesterol and blood fat levels has been studied in several trials. Participants in the study were split into 2 groups; a group who ate avocados and a group that didn’t. Researchers monitored the participants’ blood throughout the research period. Results showed that in the avocado eating group, ‘bad’ cholesterol levels were significantly reduced, levels of ‘good’ cholesterol increased and blood fat levels were reduced by about 20%. The studies were small and ran over a short period, but the results are quite impressive.
People who eat avocados are usually healthier
A study researched the health and diets of people who eat avocados regularly. Data was collected from almost 18,000 participants in the United States. It found that people who ate avocados were in much better health than those who didn’t. They tended to have a higher intake of nutrients, they were half as likely to be diabetic, they had higher levels of good cholesterol, lower body weight, and less belly fat than people who don’t eat avocados.
The fat in avocados helps you absorb nutrients
The body can only use nutrients when they are fully absorbed. Some nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, which means that they need to be combined with fat to ensure absorption. Important antioxidants such as carotenoids are also fat soluble. A study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to a salad or salsa can increase the absorption of antioxidants by up to 15 times.
Avocados contain antioxidants which help keep eyes healthy
As well as helping you to absorb nutrients like antioxidants from other foods, avocados are high in antioxidants themselves. They contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health. Research has shown that these antioxidants are linked to a lower risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which are common in old age.
Avocados might help to prevent cancer
There is some evidence to suggest that avocado might be effective in preventing cancer. One study showed that avocado extract prevented prostate cancer cells from growing. Another research study also suggested that avocado might be useful in reducing side effects from chemotherapy. More research is needed however.
Avocados might help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis
Arthritis is a common condition, characterised by swelling and stiffening of the joints. Arthritis is a chronic condition, and it can’t be cured, but there are steps you can take to reduce symptoms. Many studies have shown that avocado and soybean oil reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Eating avocado might help you lose weight
Research has shown that avocados might be an effective weight loss aid. A study split participants into 2 groups. One group was asked to eat a meal which included avocado, and the other group ate a meal that didn’t include avocado. Participants were then questioned on how hungry or how full they felt. The people who had eaten avocado as part of their meal reported feeling 23% more full and had 28% less inclination to eat over the next 5 hours. This research shows an interesting potential in using avocado for weight loss and control. The fibre content in avocados might explain the weight loss benefits, as fibre tends to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
It’s easy to add avocado into your diet
Avocados are very versatile and you can eat them alongside so many different foods. They can be added to salads or simply scooped out and eaten plain. Their smooth and creamy texture makes them very easy to blend with other foods. The most common use for avocado is in guacamole, which is made from avocado, salt, garlic and lime, depending on the recipe you’re following.
Avocados are ideal for use in desserts as they are quite mellow tasting so they don’t overpower other flavours. Their consistency is exactly what is needed for cakes, brownies, mousses, and ice cream.
Dairy-free Avocado Vegan Brownies
These delicious brownies are packed with healthy fats. There is no butter, eggs, or oil in this recipe so you can enjoy the brownies as a guilt-free treat.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed avocado
1/2 cup vanilla or plain soy milk
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish and set it to one side.
Take a medium bowl and mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until they are combined. Set the mixture aside.
In another bowl, mix the mashed avocado, soy milk, water, and vanilla extract. Add the dry mixture and combine well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes.
These brownies should keep for a week if they are stored in an airtight container. If you want to store them for longer, freeze them in a freezer bag. Wrap each brownie individually. Let them defrost thoroughly or microwave them before serving. Frozen brownies should keep for up to 3 months.
Healthy Avocado Brownies
1 large avocado
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add the avocado, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla to a blender or food processor. Add the blended ingredients to a bowl and whisk in the eggs.
Grease a baking dish with coconut oil and pour the mixture in.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes (adjust cooking time for softer or more cake-like brownies).
Allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting it into 16 brownies.
Store the brownies in an airtight container for up to 2 days. They will keep longer than this if you keep them in the fridge.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
If you love chocolate but you don’t want to add unwanted inches to your waistline, this dessert is perfect for you. It’s packed with nutrients and healthy fats, it’s easy to make and suitable for vegans.
2 medium sized ripe avocados
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup agave or maple syrup
3 dates soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and chopped
1/2 cup fair trade cocoa powder
2 Tsp vanilla extract
1/2 – 1 cup unsweetened original almond milk or similar non-dairy milk
Add the oil, dates, honey, vanilla, half of the milk, avocados and the cocoa powder to a food processor or blender in this order.
Blend for 2-3 minutes until you have a smooth mixture. Pour in some more milk gradually until the pudding is of the desired consistency.
Spoon the pudding into ramekins or bowls, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until they are ready to serve.
Easy Hazelnut Chocolate Avocado Mousse
This guilt-free treat combines the smooth taste of the avocado with the distinctive, rich flavour of the dark chocolate.
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. molasses (you can also use maple syrup)
1 Tbsp. hazelnut Kahlua
1/4 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
2 Tbsp. almond milk
Mint leaves, chopped hazelnuts, and/or berries for garnish (optional)
Add a little water to a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Place a small bowl inside the pan and reduce the heat slightly. Add the chocolate chunks and whisk, making sure to get rid of any lumps. While the chocolate melts, add the other ingredients to a blender or food processor, then add the melted chocolate. Continue to blend until smooth. Pour into bowls and put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight if possible.
Dark chocolate avocado brownies
These brownies are egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and guilt-free! They are quite crumbly so make sure you use a plate.
Coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray, for the baking dish
Flaxseed egg: 1 tbsp.flaxseed meal, plus 3 tbsp. warm water
3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. spirulina powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and mashed until smooth
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil
1/4 cup hot water
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed organic light or dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (preferably with a minimum of 65 percent cocoa) or 1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (not milk or dairy chocolate)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8-or 9-inch square baking dish with coconut oil spray and set it aside (a smaller dish will give you slightly thicker brownies).
In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed meal and hot water; set aside to let it thicken.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, spirulina, and salt. Set the dry ingredients to one side.
In a large bowl, whisk together the avocado, water, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, mix in the brown sugar to combine until the avocado is smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and apple cider vinegar. When the mixture starts to fizz, use a spatula to stir it into the brownie batter with the flaxseeds. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the baking dish, and, using the spatula, smooth the surface.
Bake until the sides of the brownies are dry and pulling away from the pan and the centre resists light pressure. Cook for about 20- 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set the brownies aside to cool for 1 hour. Then cut them into 16 squares.
Sometimes you might not get a completely smooth batter as avocados can have different textures, so don’t worry if you can see pieces of the avocado in the batter. You shouldn’t notice them once the brownies are baked.
Tips on how to prepare and store avocados
Store avocados at room temperature, and remember they can take 4-5 days to fully ripen. To make them ripen more quickly, put them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. The avocados are usually ready to eat when the skin is black or dark purple, and they are slightly soft.
Wash avocados before you open them.
Guacamole is the most well-known use of avocado, but they are very versatile and can be added to pasta, used as a substitute for butter or oil in baking or used in sandwiches.
Avocados are healthy, though some recipes like avocado fries or avocado egg rolls are covered in batter and deep fried, so avoid these or you’ll be losing out on the healthy benefits of eating avocado.
Another warning; if you’re allergic to latex, take care when adding avocado to your diet, as you may experience a reaction after eating it.
Avocados have long been hailed as a superfood, and they deserve the praise. They are packed full of essential nutrients; 20 in just one fruit, and they are an excellent source of healthy fats.
The modern diet contains far too much of the wrong types of fat, the saturated kind which clogs our arteries, raises cholesterol, and increases the risk of heart disease. Fat has long been demonised but it really is the type of fat we eat that is important. Some fat is essential for health, and most of the fat we consume should be monounsaturated fat, found in vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts. These fats assist in many essential bodily functions, keep our heart healthy and promote healthy skin.
Avocados may look strange but they taste delicious, they’re very versatile, and they have countless health benefits. As well as being a tasty addition to your diet, they can help you lose weight, improve arthritis symptoms, prevent cancer, and keep your eyes healthy; what’s not to like?
You can add avocado to virtually any meal, but they are an ideal ingredient in desserts due to their smooth consistency and mellow taste. They are good for use in vegan recipes and provide a good source of healthy fats without causing you to worry about your waistline. Try some of the healthy recipes for size. You can enjoy a delicious dessert without the guilt.