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Avocado – Delicious And Healthy, But Not Your Typical Superfood

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Avocados are healthy and fit very well into almost every diet. However, there are also some claims about avocados that are not at all true.

The avocado briefly explained

Avocado trees (Persea Americana) belong to the laurel family. They can get huge (up to 20 meters) and resemble walnut trees with their lush foliage. Depending on the subsoil, the avocado tree can also only reach bush size.

The avocado itself – from a botanical point of view a berry – can be as small as a pear, but can also reach the size of a child’s head. However, the large varieties are rarely sold because they do not store well and would not find so many fans in Europe – especially since they can weigh more than 1 kilogram.

Avocados come from Spain, Mexico, or South Africa

The cultivation of avocados in the tropical regions of the world, such as South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa, began more than 10,000 years ago. Today, the pear-shaped butter fruit also grows in the subtropics, for example in southern Spain and Israel.

However, North and Central America are currently the top avocado producers in the world. However, most of the avocados that can be bought in Central European countries come from southern Spain, Israel, Mexico, or South Africa. Because US avocados are mainly used for their own market and not exported.

The meaning of the term avocado

The word avocado comes from the Aztec word ahuacatl, which was also used for “testicles” due to certain similarities.

The nutritional values of the avocado

However, keep in mind that different avocado varieties can also have different nutritional values and the values given can therefore only provide a rough guide.

The avocado contains these vitamins and minerals

100 g avocado corresponds to a “Hass avocado or half a larger avocado variety (e.g. Ryan). The specified vitamin and mineral amounts refer to 100 g avocado pulp We specify in particular those vital substances whose requirement can be covered by at least 5 percent with 100 g avocado pulp.

Other vital substance values are often given in US sources. According to their information, the avocado contains four times the folic acid content (folate) compared to European sources, which is why the avocado is advertised as a very good source of folic acid in the USA.

The avocado contains no purines/uric acid

The avocado is free of purines so no uric acid is produced during its metabolism. It can therefore easily be part of the menu in the case of gout or the corresponding kidney stones.

Avocado for fructose intolerance

The avocado contains no fructose, only small amounts of glucose (3.5 g per 100 g), and therefore fits well into a diet with fructose intolerance. Avocado can also be eaten if you have a sorbitol intolerance. It contains no sorbitol.

Avocado for histamine intolerance

The avocado contains around 23 mg histamine per kilogram and is, therefore – depending on personal histamine tolerance – often considered to be unfavorable in the case of histamine intolerance. However, some red wines deliver up to 2000 mg histamine per liter.

When is the avocado in season?

Avocados from Spain and Israel are harvested from October to May. Avocados from Kenya and South Africa from March to September.

Avocados are better not cooked

Avocados are only eaten raw. When it gets hot, they lose their aroma.

Avocados lower cholesterol levels

Even today, some doctors still advise against eating avocados if you have high cholesterol because they believe the fatty fruit can have a negative effect on blood lipids. Just like olives or almonds, the avocado in particular provides monounsaturated fatty acids (about 8 g per 100 g), which are known to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 confirmed that avocados can actually lower cholesterol levels.

The avocado for gallstones

Because high cholesterol is an important risk factor for developing gallstones, since most gallstones are made up of a large proportion of cholesterol, and since avocado (see the previous section) helps control cholesterol levels, avocado is safe to eat if you have gallstones. The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados in particular are considered to reduce the risk of gallstones, as a study from 2004 found.

The glycemic load of the avocado

The glycemic index and glycemic load indicate the effect of food on lowering cholesterol levels. The higher the values, the more the blood sugar rises after eating these foods.

The glycemic index of the avocado is 10 (that of glucose is 100), and the glycemic load is 0.04. Both values are extremely low and comparable to the values of spinach, green beans, or parsley.

The avocado, therefore, fits very well into the diet of diabetics, including low-carb and paleo diets, weight loss diets, and anti-inflammatory diets, since unhealthily fluctuating blood sugar levels promote inflammation.

Is the avocado really an eco-disaster?

From an ecological point of view, avocado cultivation is a real disaster, according to various places on the Internet. Critics say the avocado needs far too much water, is grown in monocultures, needs special ripening chambers, and has to be transported far too far from the tropics. It is therefore better not to eat avocados anymore.

The avocado seed is edible

You can eat the avocado seed. However, that doesn’t mean you should do it every day. Traditionally, in the countries of origin of the avocado, it is used more as a remedy than as an everyday food. You can use the core from time to time, but we would advise against regular consumption, as it contains the toxic persine, among other things.

Better not to eat the avocado skin

The avocado skin of some varieties is edible. The skin of “Hass” avocados rather not. It is thick and hard and tastes extremely bitter. Therefore, if you want to try avocado skin, choose varieties with thin and soft skin. The corresponding avocado must also come from organic farming so that no pesticide or fungicide residues stick to the skin.

The new cocktail avocados are particularly ideal for eating the skin. They look like mini cucumbers and are also seedless, but according to our information, they are not yet available in conventional shops, but only through special mail-order companies.

As is usual with all fruit peels, the avocado peel contains more secondary plant substances than the pulp, i.e. significantly more flavonoids, polyphenols and also carotenoids, and chlorophyll. For this reason, Brazilian researchers tested a tea made from the dried avocado peel in 2016 and found that it was perfectly drinkable and provided them with plenty of antioxidants.

However, not only the core of the avocado but also its skin should contain the toxic persine, so we would not recommend eating it. If you still want to do it, eat the skin if you like it too. If you have to push yourself very hard to eat, you better listen to your body. Do not mix the peel in smoothies or similar, and it is better to use foods that are proven to be harmless and safe for the supply of the plant substances mentioned, e.g. B. green leafy vegetables, berries, and native (edible) wild plants.

Avocado leaves and rind are toxic to pets

Everywhere – in all dog literature and all dog forums – there are warnings about the avocado. Yes, not only for dogs but also for cats, birds, and rabbits, and basically for all domestic and farm animals, the avocado is said to be poisonous due to its persine content.

However, if you look at the study situation in the literature, it quickly becomes clear that it is the bark, the leaves, possibly the unripe fruit, and also the stone of the avocado that can contain the toxic persin and are therefore unsuitable for animals. The ripe flesh of the avocado contains no persin, or if it does, only in traces.

Therefore, all studies of persin poisoning deal with rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle and other animals that have eaten avocado leaves or the bark of the avocado tree.

Dog food with avocado

Another study now states that avocados should not be given to animals. With regard to dogs, however, only one study is cited as evidence, which is actually no evidence at all. It dates from 1994. This is a study involving two dogs that suffered from the same symptoms seen in said goat or sheep after avocado leaf consumption. And since both dogs had a weakness for avocados (the fruit), it was concluded that it must have been the avocados that caused their symptoms. However, this has never been proven.

Yes, there has even been a dog food (AvoDerm) in the US for decades that has avocados as a key ingredient because they are said to be so beneficial to the skin and coat.

In Spain and South America, dogs love to eat avocados

Sources more critical of the avocado panic among dog owners say the only thing dangerous about avocados is their pit, if dogs swallow it and it gets stuck in their throat or if it causes an intestinal blockage. Otherwise, the avocado does not pose a health problem for dogs or cats if they get the ripe pulp every now and then (if they like it).

In any case, in the home countries of the avocado (South America, Spain), street dogs like to go to avocado trees to eat the fallen fruit. Even domestic dogs are not prevented from eating avocados if they are fallen fruit under the in-house avocado tree.

Of course, nobody has to give their dog avocados if they don’t trust the thing, especially since avocados are not one of the typical staple foods of a Central European dog, so they will certainly not miss anything if they don’t find an avocado in their bowl.

Are Avocados a Superfood?

Avocados are a superfood in that they are very filling due to their high-fat content and are therefore an important part of the menu, especially in a vegan raw food diet. They turn salads into a complete main meal, are ready to eat extremely quickly, and provide interesting amounts of nutrients and vital substances without having any harmful effects.

However, there are a number of statements circulating on the internet with which one would like to turn avocados into superfoods that do not correspond to reality.

Avocados are of course cholesterol-free

The fat profile of the avocado is usually cited as the main benefit. It is said to be cholesterol-free as if this were a special feature for plant-based food. Their high content of unsaturated fatty acids and their low content of saturated fatty acids are also praised.

Consequently, it is believed that avocado is a heart-healthy food and protects against heart and vascular diseases. It is automatically assumed here that cholesterol and saturated fatty acids are fundamentally bad, but this is not even remotely proven.

Avocados provide little magnesium

Focus wrote in August 2018 that it is mainly the magnesium contained in avocados that makes the fruit a superfood. In 100 g of avocado, however, you will find just 25 to 29 mg of magnesium, which is not very much with a daily requirement of 350 to 400 mg. Bananas, blackberries, and kiwis provide the same amount of magnesium without being a superfood.

However, it depends on what you compare the avocado too. If someone decides to eat avocado bread instead of bread and butter from now on, they will of course be getting a lot more magnesium in the future, since butter contains almost no magnesium at all.

Are Avocados a Good Source of Fiber?

Cosmopolitan said in March 2018 that avocados are so filling because just one of these super fruits covers a third of the recommended daily fiber requirement. That would be 10g of fiber, so according to Cosmopolitan, an avocado should weigh 250g, which isn’t usually the case.

A conventional avocado weighs just between 100 and 150 g and thus provides between 4 and 6 g of fiber. Still, avocados are a good source of fiber and can help meet fiber needs.

Avocados are not a good source of omega-3

The magazine also says that avocados are real brain food because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados do indeed do this, but in rather small quantities (0.1 g). The same amount of omega-3 can also be found in Chinese cabbage, lentils, and zucchini, without touting them as special brain food, let alone citing them as a particularly valuable source of omega-3. If you want to supply yourself with omega-3 fatty acids, it is better to use hemp seeds, linseed oil, walnuts, or ground chia seeds.

Avocados are not suitable as a source of iron

Cosmopolitan recommends avocados for pregnant women because, among other things, they would supply iron. But here, too, one wonders why food with 0.4 mg iron per 100 g is mentioned as a source of iron when this low value is only a minor factor with a requirement of 20 mg (during pregnancy).

Avocados as a source of lutein

The avocado is also so healthy because it contains lutein, a secondary plant substance that has a particularly beneficial effect on the eyes and can probably prevent a number of serious eye diseases. However, the lutein content of avocados is not mind-bogglingly high. Cooked kale has 66 times the amount of lutein, spinach has 40 times the amount, common romaine lettuce has eight times the amount, squash and broccoli have four times the amount, and corn and green beans still have twice the amount of lutein.

However, there is one study that showed that eating avocados can increase serum and brain lutein levels. Now that it is known that an increased lutein level helps to improve cognitive performance and memory, one concludes that avocados are great for giving the brain a boost. But how would avocados fare here if they had been compared in such a study not with potatoes and chickpeas, but with spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, or broccoli?

Avocados for weight loss

In many places on the net, it is said that the avocado supplies the enzyme lipase, which accelerates the breakdown of the body’s own fat and thus helps with weight loss. However, enzymes are proteins and are largely inactivated by the stomach acid and the protein-digesting enzymes located there. Now, of course, avocado lipase could be an exception. In a study of various lipase sources (including avocados), however, it was found that only the lipases from castor and oats are acid-resistant.

A 2013 study found that people who eat avocados eat healthier foods overall and — while sometimes consuming as many calories as less healthy eaters — are significantly leaner and have a much lower risk of metabolic disease.

Since such a study does not say much about the specific weight loss potential of avocados, researchers at Loma Linda University in California are currently (fall 2018) organizing a study to specifically examine the effects of avocado consumption. The overweight participants have to eat an avocado every day for six months, while the control group, who is also overweight, is not allowed to eat more than two avocados per month.

Like almost all avocado studies, the study is sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board and thus by none other than the avocado industry itself. Nevertheless, one can of course be curious about the result.

Some “experts” claim: avocados are dangerous

In the eyes of Udo Polymer (author and chemist), the avocado is downright dangerous because it can throw blood sugar levels out of balance, which of course diabetics should pay particular attention to.

As early as April 1994, however, one read in the specialist journal Diabetes Care that it can be particularly helpful for diabetics to swap some of the carbohydrates consumed daily for avocados. A study found that this led to better blood lipid levels in diabetics and helped them control their blood sugar levels more easily. So avocados do exactly the opposite of what Mr. Pollmer thinks he knows.

This is not surprising, since Mr. Pollmer refers to animal experiments from the 1970s, in which the animals were given isolated and high doses of mannoheptulose, a substance that is also present in avocados but obviously has a completely different effect than in isolated form. If the animals had simply been given avocados, the result would have been completely different.

Avocados regularly cause bloodbaths

Another danger lurking in the avocado is the carnage the fruit could cause if you don’t know how to cut it open. Die Welt reported in 2017 about a doctor lamenting the many “avocado hands” that come to the emergency room weekly because people don’t seem to expect a pit in the avocado, the knife tries to cut the fruit in half, slipping on the pit and then cut your hand.

Sprouting avocado seeds is not a good idea

Avocado seeds germinate very easily. However, unless you live in the Mediterranean region or have a very large conservatory, don’t grow avocado plants. Because the avocado plant is a plant that lives in the tropics or subtropics and wants to grow into a huge tree there. It is therefore not suitable as a houseplant, would suffer in living spaces and also not live long.

It is best to buy organic avocados

Avocados are best bought in organic shops. In the discounter, the fruit is often old, overripe, stored too cold, or handled roughly, so that it is not uncommon for them to be damaged or inedible or simply no longer ripen.

What to look out for when buying avocados

Avocados rarely ripen on the tree. In nature, they fall hard and unripe to the ground and only ripen there. Of course, they are usually damaged by the impact, are soon consumed by insects, and then quickly spoil. Therefore, avocados intended for consumption are plucked straight from the tree and shipped to stores around the world while still unripe.

If you find avocados in your grocery store that are already soft, they are usually ones that have been in the store or in their storage rooms for a long time. They were often picked up several times, possibly stored incorrectly at night (in the cold room), and are therefore no longer recommended.

If you still buy such a soft avocado, you will often find that the inside of the fruit has black spots that are inedible. It is therefore best to choose firm and unripe avocados, which you can then have professionally ripened at home.

How to ripen avocados at home

Wrap the firm avocado – preferably together with an apple – in a paper bag or in newspaper and store it at normal room temperature (never directly on or above the radiator). The apple emits a so-called ripening gas (ethylene), which promotes ripening. Depending on the original degree of ripeness, it can take between two and ten days before the fruit is ready to be eaten.

Avocados that have just been picked can be expected to ripen for ten days. If you are on holiday in Spain, you can often buy such freshly harvested avocados from small farmers. These are then harvested the day before or the same morning and take ten days or even longer to ripen. In Central Europe, typical ripening generally lasts five days at most, as the fruit has been on the road for a while before it is available for purchase in stores.

If you put an unripe avocado in the fridge, it won’t ripen. Avocados that have been refrigerated for too long when unripe often become rubbery in consistency or bitter in taste – even if you want to let them ripen again at room temperature after the cool storage period.

Before you cut open an avocado, you should be sure that it is properly ripe. Because as soon as the fruit is cut open, it no longer ripens. But how do you know your avocado is ripe?

How to recognize ripe avocados

It is usually common for stores to write the variety of avocados on the box or price tag. In Central Europe, the two most common varieties are “Fuerte” and “Hass”. Fuerte avocados have an almost smooth, green skin and taste mild. Hass avocados have a delicate, tangy taste and are characterized by a heavily knobbed skin.

If you have bought a Hass avocado, the skin will turn black as it ripens. The black skin is therefore not a sign of spoilage, but an indication of an ideal state of ripeness. However, the fruit should yield slightly even when pressed with a finger. (Never buy a Hass avocado that’s already black, though, as you don’t know how long it’s been black, so the fruit may already be overripe.)

Fuerte avocados, on the other hand, should never turn black. With them, black spots on the skin are usually an indication that the fruit is also bad inside – at least partially.

Other varieties available in Central Europe are called Bacon, Ettinger, Pinkerton, Reed, and Ryan. The following applies to all varieties: Take the avocado in your hand. If it yields to slight pressure, it can be eaten. They all have green skin – whether they are immature or already ripe.

This is how the avocado is stored

The green flesh of the avocado quickly turns dark once the fruit is cut open and exposed to oxygen. Therefore, drizzle some lemon juice or vinegar on a cut avocado to prevent further oxidation.

If you only need half an avocado and want to save the remaining half, place half the fruit in a sealable container and place it in the fridge. It is best to consume the cut avocado the next day at the latest.

How to keep your guacamole fresh

If you have any leftovers from your guacamole, you can of course also put them in the fridge. Cover tightly with cling film and consume within a day or two. If it turns brown on the surface, simply remove the brown layer with a spoon before eating.

Ripe but uncut avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. The ripening process is interrupted by the low temperatures and the storage time of the ripe avocado is extended in this way.

How to freeze avocados

If necessary, avocados can also be frozen, preferably in pureed form. Peel and deseed the fruit, mash the flesh and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for every 2 mashed avocados. Place the avocado puree in a freezer container, leaving about 2cm of space between the puree and the lid. Close the containers and label them.

The avocado puree stored in this way should be used within five months, for example for sandwiches, salad dressings, or dips.

What threads in the avocado pulp mean

Sometimes you cut open an optically perfect avocado and discover brown or green fibers in the flesh. The fibers themselves are not harmful, so you can eat them. However, one can also try to remove the threads as they don’t look that appetizing.

The fibers are the supply channels of the fruit, into which air got during the ripening process or when it was overripe, which then led to oxidation processes. However, if not only the fibers are brown, but also larger parts of the pulp around the fibers, this indicates progressive spoilage.

What brown or black spots in the avocado flesh mean

These are pressure points. This allows air to get between the skin and the pulp. Oxidation and spoilage occur. If the rest of the flesh still looks good, removing the brown or black areas will suffice.

However, the avocado often starts to become a little glassy and greasy, which indicates that the fat has already gone bad. The avocado no longer tastes good and should no longer be eaten.

How to prepare the avocado

Slice the avocado lengthwise, cutting around the pit. Then twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate them. Don’t remove the pit unless you plan on using the whole avocado in one go.

If you only want to use half an avocado, use half without the pit. In the other half, leave the core. It is said to contain special enzymes that ensure that the cut fruit lasts much longer as long as the stone is still in it.

Now you can use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the fruit halves. If you want to make cubes, you can use a knife to cut the flesh of the fruit while it is still in the skin and then remove the finished cubes with a spoon.

Otherwise, you can drizzle the avocado with lemon, season it with a little herb salt, and spoon it straight out of the skin. Of course, the pulp can also be pureed or simply mashed with a fork and turned into a delicious dip, salad dressing, or sandwich cream.

Delicious avocado dip: guacamole

Guacamole is a popular Mexican avocado dip. The term guacamole comes from the Nahuatl word “ahuacamolli”, which translates as an avocado sauce. Nahuatl was spoken by the Aztecs and related peoples – so that’s how long guacamole has been around.

Ripe avocados are best for guacamole so that the dip is nice and creamy. The basic recipe consists of avocado pulp, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If you like, you can also add diced tomatoes, some chili, and coriander or parsley.

The lemon ensures that the guacamole does not turn brown. Another tip is to put the avocado seed in the middle of the guacamole. The avocado seed is said to contain enzymes that keep the flesh fresh for longer. If you cover the dip with cling film, it will keep until the next day.

In Mexico, guacamole is eaten with fajitas, tacos, or burritos, for example. But guacamole also tastes great on crusty bread, in burgers, or as a dip for tortilla chips, vegetable sticks, or potato wedges!

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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