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The Amazing Avocado: it's more than just Guacamole...

Whether it’s the color associated with tacky 1970’s kitchen decor or the rumor that avocados will make you fat, avocado’s appeal is often overshadowed by its bad reputation. When I was a kid, the bright green color and slimy texture made me turn up my nose. But as an adult, the allure of guacamole with chips proved too hard to resist. And once I fully understood the power punch of nutrients packaged into this amazing fruit (Yes, it’s a fruit -- not a vegetable, despite its location in the produce department), I made it a regular part of my nutrition rotation. Avocado is an amazing little green machine, a nutrient-packed powerhouse, that deserves your attention.

What’s it got to offer?

In it’s natural raw state, avocado has a lot to offer. A serving is packed with fiber, a bit of protein, and plenty of the beneficial nutrients that your body needs to operate at peak performance. We’re talking iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and a big dose of potassium, which is vital for maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure. There are also a nice array of vitamins, including Vitamins B, C and E, Folate, and the elusive Vitamin K which promotes blood clotting and bone development.

It’s also got a healthy dose of fat. You may have heard, “It’s okay, it’s the good fat.” And to some extent, that is true. Avocados primarily offer monounsaturated fatty acids, the same type that is found in olive oil. That’s the kind associated with health benefits rather than the saturated and trans fats that put you at risk for disease. Foods with unsaturated fats also trigger satiety hormones as they’re digested. That, along with the fiber in avocado, helps you feel fuller longer after a meal, so that you eat less overall.

It’s that fat that makes avocado so appealing. It adds richness and creaminess, so it’s ideal as a fat substitute in sauces, salad dressings, and smoothies when you want an indulgent, fatty feel without filling up on empty calories.

A little goes a long way...

Even though it’s “the good fat,” too much of a good thing is not so good. Avocado is high in calories, and any excessive intake of calories will jeopardize a healthy diet and cause weight gain. Eat the whole thing, and you’re consuming more than 200 calories and 20 grams of fat. That’s more than a donut!

It’s all about moderation. A serving of avocado is an ounce, or about two tablespoons. That’s about one quarter of a small avocado. You may be surprised, but that’s really all you need to reap the benefits without piling on the calories.

The type of avocado that you buy makes a difference. The most common variety in grocery stores are Hass avocados, small, dense avocados with dark, pebbly skin. Florida avocados are larger with lighter green, smoother skins. Ounce for ounce, Florida avocados are lower in calories and fat, but watch your portion size because they are bigger overall. Hass avocados are sometimes identified as California avocados, even though they are more likely to come from Mexico, the world’s largst avocado producer. They are creamier and better for mashing, while the firmer flesh of Florida avocados hold their shape, and are preferable for slicing or cubing.

How to eat avocado? Anytime of day!

Breakfast: I never thought of avocado as a breakfast food, but it’s become a favorite in the form of avocado toast. Spread on crusty, toasted multigrain bread, it makes a tasty topping, with more texture and flavor than butter! Give it a little sprinkle of salt and pepper and you’re good to go! Add protein with a poached egg perched on top. Or, go fancy with these options for a variety of avocado toasts.

Lunch: You know and love the BLT; how about a BLAT? That’s Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato! Add avocado to your sandwich or wrap; it makes a terrific sandwich filling,. Creamy avocado replaces mayonnaise in egg salad for a low calorie, high protein option. Or get your green on with a roasted veggie and avocado garden wrap.

Dinner: At a main meal, avocado can be the star of the show, or the perfect accompaniment. Want a rich pasta dish that tastes luxurious without overloading your plate with empty calories? This avocado pasta sauce can be prepared in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Or try a salad that complements absolutely everything: Cucumber, Tomato, Avocado Salad. And of course, avocado is a delicious addition to tacos. Try it with these sweet potato tacos for a delicious vegetarian option where you won’t miss the meat.

Snack: Want to snack healthier? Squeeze some avocado into your snacks. Sneak it in a smoothie or a creamy dip. And of course, there is always guacamole. This is my favorite recipe for perfect guacamole. Just watch your portion; spoon out a two-tablespoon serving and save the rest for later. (Bonus points if you forgo the chips and use crunchy veggies for dippers!)

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