To start our 2022 off with a bang, let's discuss different superfoods in order to get us going on our quest to eat healthier. Each month we'll take a deep dive into an additional superfood. We'll take a look at its nutrition facts, origins, popular culture uses, and other interesting facts.
This month we're starting with a superfood that I didn't even hear about outside of our local Mexican restaurant growing up: The Avocado.
The Avocado: Types
Avocados are broken up into a-type and b-types. The most popular of each type are represented above. However, there are still several more varieties that are not represented. Be sure to go do some research should you want to try and taste the subtle (and not so subtle) differences of each!
Today, we will focus on the avocado that rules them all: The Hass.
The Hass Avocado: Nutritional Facts
Avocado: A History
The humble avocado springs into history in the Puebla of South Central Mexico some 10,000 years back. Our invention of the wheel came at a very fortunate time (around 5,000 years ago) because it was around the same time as the cultivation of these botanical beauties. It's like the inventor of the wheel knew we'd need more speed to get to our guac! For centuries it played a huge part in the lives of Mesoamerican tribes both as food and as mythological power.
I grew up in the late 20th century. The only place I was likely to see an avocado was in a fancy salad or guacamole at our local Mexican Restaurant: El Sombrero. So, why was the avocado so late to gain a foothold in America. Well, there are a few reasons, actually!
The avocado began to dig its roots into the land of the free in 1833, but sadly it only got popular in the markets in which it was grown. So, if you grew up in places like Florida, California, and Hawaii, you would have been much more likely to have eaten avocados than those that didn't live in the growing climate.
The first big break for the avocado came in 1950 when adding them to a nice salad became popular. Not so lucky (pun intended) was the fact that the more conservative crowd at the time heard that avocados may be an aphrodisiac. Gasp! Therefore, the sales didn't rocket the way they have in the recent past.
Then came the 80s! A wild time for food, and America, in general.
I bet that if you had a box like this in your home:
Then you probably didn't have an avocado in your home.
The low-fat craze of the 80s drove a wedge between this superfood and the public. Avocados are fatty. However, fat of all kinds was public enemy number one. Instead, we were advertised that if we took in these highly processed chemical bombs instead of healthier fats, we could be one of the beautiful people.
We're just now coming out of the fat-free way of thinking, and the avocado is enjoying its prime here in the States. Toast and smoothies, to dips and dishes; the avocado's time has come.
Why You Should Be Eating Avocados
Listed above are the nutrition facts for the Hass variety, but let's take a look at why those numbers matter. The biggest thing we see is that avocados are a concentrated source of all sorts of healthy fats and fiber.
Not only that, but the avocado is rich in many nutrients a lot of us westerners lack—things like magnesium, vitamin C, B5, folate, and vitamin E. More importantly, one avocado will take care of up to 10% of your daily recommended value of potassium. Potassium is actually considered a "nutrient of public health concern" by the US Department of Health.
If you eat an entire avocado, you'll also have taken in 60% of your daily recommended amount of B6. This nutrient helps reduce inflammation in the body and helps with oxidative stress.
I talk about your gut health a lot, I know. However, that's where more than 70% of our immune system resides. That makes it pretty important during the middle of a global pandemic. Fiber is the magic substance that increases the number of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. An avocado doses you up with 50% of your entire daily recommended value!
Great Source of Antioxidants
Avocados are chock full of carotenoids. These compounds have been shown to have significant antioxidant, neuroprotective, and cardioprotective effects on the body. The main carotenoids found in avocados include lutein alpha & beta carotene. These substances have been shown to reduce inflammation related to chronic diseases.
Reduces Your Risk of Depression
Avocados are also high in a substance called folate. Folate has proven to fight depression in several recent studies. Folate is also vital for overall dietary health.
The method by which folate can reduce your risk for depression is by preventing the buildup of homocysteine, a substance that can impair cognitive function and prevent proper nutrient absorption to the brain. It also blocks the body's ability to properly produce serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
They're Just So Versatile
Avocados have really found a glow up in all areas of cuisine recently! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snacks have all benefited from the versatility of the avocado. You can barely go to brunch without some sort of avocado toast on the menu; it's sliced and added to only the most bougie of burgers, it's part of your sushi dinner, breakfast smoothies, chocolaty brownies, appetizers, and just enjoyed by itself as a snack.
In addition, avocados can take the place of mayo for tuna or chicken salad and even replace the oil in a smooth salad dressing! Adding it as a substitute for some of your favorite snacks can really elevate the overall health level.
If you've never tried an avocado, I'll just warn you upfront; they're honestly not for everyone. I'm not a huge fan of them by themselves, but there's no turning back once you start doing things with them in recipes.
If you don't know where to start, and I certainly didn't, check out a page like Love and Lemons! They have tons of recipes to get you started here.
Please keep in mind that if you have a severe latex allergy, you might want to steer clear of our healthy friend. Avocado allergies usually denote a latex allergy.
Aside from that, there is no reason not to give this month's superfood a try! So get out there, get cooking, stay frugal, and stay fit, my friends!