Named from the Aztec word “ahuacatl” meaning (*gasp! blush!*) “testicle,” it was considered a “fertility fruit” by their people. In fact, Avocados had a long-standing stigma as a sexual stimulant and were not purchased or consumed by people wanting to preserve a chaste image. Does it really help maintain your mojo or flourish your friskiness? I haven’t seen any research on it, but it wouldn’t surprise me! What we do know is that diets high in processed foods – especially fried, dangerous, toxic fats CAN decrease libido and cause erectile dysfunction in men. So a healthy diet rich in minerals and GOOD fats may be beneficial! But that can be a post for another time.
On to the avocado!
There are many different varieties of avocados (80 known at this time), falling into three basic families: Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian. While looking somewhat different in size and texture, most share the similar drop shape with soft, creamy flesh, and the large inner seed.
Odd Factoid #1: Cutting and rubbing the flesh of a ripe avocado on sun-burnt skin may help sooth it.
My experimentation with avocado recipes is currently limited – we just love it the way we already know it: as guacamole, added to salad, or eaten plain with a little garlic powder sprinkled on top! But there are so many other uses for avocado as well! (A favorite of mine, that I haven’t made in ages, is the natural Dark Chocolate Fruit Dip – scroll to the bottom of that page for the recipe! So creamy, so smooth, and so naturally healthy!)
We have seen interesting culinary experiments where avocado is a staple ingredient to make butter, ice cream, and even a green cake frosting! Maybe not the healthiest ways to utilize this amazing food, but interesting nonetheless!
Odd Factoid #2: All the animals native to the Americas and large enough to pass avocado pits through their digestive tracts are now extinct – among them, the giant sloths
Like most fruit (yep, the little avocado is technically a fruit!) the area nearest the peel is the healthiest. In some fruits, you want to eat the skin because that’s where the majority of the nutrients are concentrated. An apple is a good example of that – while there are benefits to the soft white flesh, it is the colorful peel of the apple that contains so much of the apple’s goodness.
With the avocado, however, you don’t really eat the peel – but you want to scrape that shell out as best you can! The inner parts of an avocado are a brighter yellow, but they get to a darker green as you move outward towards the shell. And that’s where there’s even more wondrous power! This is where the highest concentration of the healing carotenoids are. “Researchers believe that avocado’s amazing carotenoid diversity is a key factor in the anti-inflammatory properties of this vegetable. The list of carotenoids found in avocado include well-known carotenoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein, but also many lesser known carotenoids including neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin.”
That’s a lot of crazy terms! What are some of the benefits of these things?
One of the biggest things avocado is linked to is helping with inflammation – specifically conditions such as arthritis. But avocado can also:
- promote heart health
- help balance cholesterol levels
- promote blood sugar regulation
- may help with cancer!
Cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients and/or high prevalence of inflammatory foods and lifestyles) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants). Because the avocado is rich in both anti-inflammatory nutrients as well as antioxidants, it is being studied as a possibly helper in the prevention of cancers in the mouth, skin, and prostate gland.
Odd Factoid #3: Folk wisdom believed that a Mayan princess ate the very first avocado, and it gave her magical powers
In addition to all of those healing benefits, “Avocados are a good source of bone supportive vitamin K as well as heart-healthy dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and folate. Avocados are also a good source of energy-producing vitamin B5 and muscle-healthy potassium.” And let’s not forget the fiber! One half an avocado will provide you with 6-7 grams of digestion-helping, cholesterol-lowering, fullness-feeling fiber! And though one half of this fantastic fruit will only provide you with 2 grams of protein, it is a complete protein, containing all of the Amino Acids (the building blocks for proteins)
That sounds great, but what – you may wonder – about the fact that half an avocado still contains an entire 15 grams of fat??
Well it’s the healthy monounsaturated fats! But all in moderation, of course – I’m not saying plow through 5 of these in one day! But if you’re going to be getting a dose of fat, this is one good place to get it from! One fourth to one half (depending on your personal goals) is a great way to get some of the benefits. There are three unique types of fats in avocados:
- polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs)
- oleic acid.
Phytosterols are key players in inflammation, and have been shown to help with arthritis.
PFAs are normally found in sea plants, but you can also get them from the avocado! They are also important for anti-inflammatory roles in the body.
And Oleic Acid helps us better absorb fat-soluble nutrients, like Vitamins A, D, E, and K, if eaten at the same time (a great reason to dice some avocado into a salad!) Oleic acid is also linked to reduced risks of heart disease.
Not only that, but these are natural, raw, unprocessed, and undamaged fats! The way nature made them! They are much easier for our system to digest and utilize for healing than, say, processed, damaging fried oils and acidifying animal fats.
Odd Factoid #4: During Super Bowl Sunday, in the US, about 50 million pounds of avocados are consumed. According to some nutrition magazines, that is enough to cover an area the size of a football field, to a depth of nearly 12 feet
So dice some avocado in your salads; slice some on your sandwich; mash it up with garlic, onion, salt, lime juice, tomato, and cilantro for a delectable dip; or try it in place of mayonnaise or butter for non-cooked favorites.
And if we ever get around to some of those radical recipes of butter, ice cream, and frosting – we’ll be sure to share that here.
But avocado has more than just internal benefits! Because of it’s healthy, natural oils, avocado is an incredible beautifying item, too! The soft, moist flesh is hydrating and healing for your hair and scalp, as well as plumping for your skin. Or, of you don’t want to eat the avocado for the beautiful benefits, you can check out this page for Do It Yourself processes on making nourishing shampoo, conditioner, and face masks!
So whether you eat it or wear it, avocado is a wonderful addition to your shopping list. Or check out the California Avocado Commission on how to grow your own avocado tree!
And if you come up with a favorite recipe, please share it with us!