With only a few more days left of American Heart Month, I figured I should highlight one of the best heart healthy foods – avocados! Although most people would categorize the avocado as a vegetable, it is indeed a fruit. And it is extremely nutrient dense, which basically measures the amount of nutrients packed into a food in comparison to it’s calories. Many people avoid avocados, knowing that they’re high in fat. While that is true, not all fats are created equally. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats, which are extremely heart healthy because they help to lower cholesterol levels. That being said, all types of fats contain 9 calories per gram (which is higher than carbohydrates and protein). That means they’re not all you can eat!
The avocado is not only high in monounsaturated fat, but it is also packed with vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin K-Plays an important role in blood clotting.
- Potassium-A vital electrolyte which plays a role in heart and kidney function.
- B vitamins – Water soluble vitamins that play an important role in making energy from the foods we eat. Deficiency of some B vitamins can also cause anemia.
- Lutein – An antioxidant important for eye development.
- Vitamin C – Water soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and necessary for normal growth.
- Vitamin E – A fat soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in the body. It also helps in the formation of red blood cells and in using vitamin K. Also known to play a role in healthy skin and hair.
- Fiber – Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which play a role in the digestive tract, as well as helping to lower cholesterol, and helping to control glucose levels.
- Folate - Promotes cell and tissue development. Extremely important during times of rapid cell division, such as pregnancy and infancy.
Told you they were packed with nutrients! The texture of an avocado also makes it versatile. A ripe avocado can be used to spread on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise. We like to make thin slices or chop and add to salads or tacos. And of course…we love guacamole! They are also perfect for infants because of the high fat content! Due to the rapid oxidation (browning) of the “meat” of the avocado once it’s out of the skin, you probably won’t find it on a shelf in a baby food jar. However, you can easily process it in a blender, food processor, or baby food maker (like the previously mentioned Baby Brezza ), or even mash with a spoon. When it’s time to finger feed, it’s easy to chop into small pieces.
Selection: Choose avocados with firm skin with no soft spots. They should be firm but will yield to gentle pressure when ripe. Super mushy ones are overly ripe.
Storage: Store unripe avocados in a paper bag at room temperature. Once ripe, refrigerate for 2-3 days.
FYI: Once an avocado is cut open, to prevent browning add lime or another acid. I’ve heard that keeping the seed intact will help prevent oxidation. Not sure how true it is, but won’t hurt!
Do you and your children like avocados? What’s your favorite way to eat them?