Meet your new superfood bestie: the avocado!
Despite its humble appearance, the avocado has a surprising list of health benefits. It’s also amazingly versatile and can easily be added into your daily menu, whether it’s adding a few slices to your morning smoothie or mashing it into an easy salsa recipe.
I love the yummy and healthy benefits of this fruit so much (that’s right—it’s actually a berry!) that I always keep avocados stocked in the kitchen.
Read on to find out the essentials of getting the most out of your avocado fix, including the amazing health benefits that make them a superfood rock star, how to pick the best ones at the market, and how to ripen them in just ten minutes.
Of course, I’ll also share my top 5 favorite avocado recipes so you can make them a staple in your home, too!
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6 Ways Avocados Rock the Superfood Scene
Don’t you just love it when something that tastes so good is also good for you?
The avocado has been scientifically proven to have so many health benefits, it’s definitely earned its reputation as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. That’s why it’s no surprise that avocados are among the most-searched-for superfoods on the internet!1
Here are 6 amazing health benefits avocados have to offer:
Supports healthy brain function
The next time you dip into that yummy guacamole, remember this fact: Avocados can help keep your brain sharp! Studies have shown that the lutein in avocados can actually improve brain function.2 In a 6-month study, people who regularly ate avocados had better attention spans, improved working memory, and better problem solving skills.3
Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, you actually have to add healthy fats to your diet in order to burn your existing fat stores! (To learn more, read this blog: Why You Have to Eat Fat to Burn Fat & the Top 2 Healthy Fats.)
Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and Omega-3s, another reason to add them to your shopping list. In fact, avocado lovers typically have a lower body weight and BMI (Body Mass Index, a measure of body weight based on height and weight) and a lower risk of obesity than their non-avocado-eating counterparts!4
The high fat and fiber content in avocados also keeps you satisfied longer and helps your blood sugar remain steady. One study showed that eating half of an avocado with lunch significantly reduced hunger and appetite for 3–5 hours and balanced out blood sugar levels.5
So, with a half serving of avocado, you can ditch being a sugar burner and say hello to becoming the best fat burner!
Promotes heart health
The multitasking avocado helps protect your heart in more ways than one. First, it’s one of the few foods that contain high levels of both vitamin C and vitamin E. This dynamic duo works together to lower cholesterol and protect against clogging of the arteries.6
Another way avocados protect your heart is by lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the big risk factors for heart disease. As it turns out, avocados are high in potassium, and increasing your intake of this important mineral is a powerful way to lower blood pressure.7 In fact, simply by increasing your potassium intake, you can decrease the incidence of hypertension by 17% and increase your life expectancy by 5 years!8
Supports a positive mood
Eating monounsaturated fats, the main type of fat found in avocados, has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.9 Also, the folate in avocados has been shown to help maintain dopamine and serotonin production, your brain’s feel-good chemicals.10 The bottom line is that adding avocados to your shopping list will make your brain and your taste buds happy. A definite win!
Helps protect against cancer
Avocados also have phytochemicals including carotenoids, terpenoids, and glutathione that have been proven to help protect against cancer.11 But this overachieving superfood doesn’t stop there: The oleic acid in avocados helps your body absorb these phytochemicals better to increase their effectiveness.12 So, it’s not too surprising that extracts of avocado have been proven to slow the growth of cancer cells.13
Promotes healthy aging
The first signs of aging often show up as wrinkles in the skin. Avocado's high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin can protect the skin from UV radiation and damage.14 A study that tested the relationship between food choices and anti-aging skin found that eating higher amounts of dietary fats was closely associated with skin elasticity, resulting in fewer wrinkles.15 So, the nutrients and the fats found in avocados can help skin stay smooth, increase wound healing, and protect against sun damage.16
With all these incredible benefits, you’re probably ready to buy avocados by the dozen! Here are my top tips to get the perfect fruit every time.
How to Choose the Best Avocados When You Shop
Now that you know about some of the amazing health benefits of avocados, it’s time to make sure you only choose the best of the bunch from your local market!
Once again, the avocado makes this easy because, according to the experts at Environmental Working Group, the avocado is the #1 cleanest fruit, so buying non-organic avocados is actually fine.17
However, if you’ve had a less-than-stellar encounter with avocados in the past, it may be because you ate one that wasn’t at its peak. If you’ve ever waited impatiently for your avocado to ripen only to discover that it’s turned brown inside, I’ve got you covered!
Follow these 3 simple steps to make sure your next batch of avocados are perfectly fresh and creamy:
1. Pick up an unblemished avocado and give it a gentle squeeze. When you lightly press on the skin of an avocado, it should give just slightly if it’s ripe. If the avocado is still solid and firm, wait another 2-3 days. If your avocado feels squishy and soft, it’s well past its due date!
2. The color of your avocado also offers a clue to its ripeness. The Hass avocado, which is most common, is ripe when it’s a deep purple or almost black.
3. Check the base of the stem. There’s a small divot at one end of your avocado with a piece of brown, woody stem in it. When you remove that bit of stem, you can check the color underneath. If it’s a creamy yellow, your avocado is ready to eat! If there are brown spots hiding under the stem, the avocado is overripe.
So, there you have it! When you follow these three steps as you’re picking out avocados, you’ll increase your chances of getting the yummiest ones.
Not Ripe? No Problem: How to Ripen an Avocado in 10 Minutes!
What if you’ve checked every avocado in the grocery bin, and they’re all rock-hard? Before you give up on getting your superfood fix, try this easy trick to ripen an avocado in only 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°F. As you wait for the oven to heat up, wrap the avocado in aluminum foil, parchment paper, or place it in a covered ceramic dish.
- Put the wrapped or covered avocado on a baking sheet and bake it in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove the softened avocado from the oven and put it in the fridge to cool it down.
How does it work?
If you’re a science geek like me, you’ll want to know why this food hack works!
Fruits naturally ripen by slowly producing ethylene gas. In this case, the low heat from the oven causes the avocado to increase the production of that gas, while the foil or parchment traps the ethylene to speed up the ripening process.
One last tip: Older ovens sometimes have a hard time holding low temperatures consistently. If your oven doesn’t seem to work, try a toaster oven instead!
Now that you have a steady supply of ripe avocados, let’s talk about how to use them!
My Top 5 Avocado Recipes
Now that you have a perfectly ripened, creamy avocado, it’s time to pick the best recipes to showcase it! Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy it:
Peach-Berry Bliss Shake The avocado in this amazing protein shake adds healthy Omega-3s, fiber, and all of its healthy goodness, while also creating a rich, a creamy texture that reminds me of a traditional ice cream milkshake!
Creamy Roasted Avocado This recipe blends the fantastic flavors of a creamy avocado with garlic, salt, and lime juice, topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds for for some added texture! Yes, please!
Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cacao Nibs This yummy, decadent avocado recipe is a perfect dessert that satisfies your chocolate cravings and pairs it up with a fellow superfood: cacao nibs. All of this yummy goodness is dairy-free and low Sugar Impact, so you can serve it for breakfast or dessert!
Pico de Gallo Avocado If you’re in the mood for a fun fiesta or just want to chill out with the perfect dip, you’ll love this delicious and simple recipe that takes only 15 minutes to prepare!
Tex-Mex Burgers with Avocado Salsa The combination of a hearty, juicy burger with the fresh tangy, chunky avocado salsa makes this a great go-to recipe for your next barbecue.
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The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.