Whether you are a food aficionado or not, there is no escaping the latest obsession with avocados – they are everywhere! So much so that the first all-avocado restaurant opened in Amsterdam earlier this year, with every meal from starter to dessert featuring avocado as an ingredient. ‘Tis far from avocados we were reared, you might say and you’d be right as most of the World’s produce come from the sunny climes of Mexico and South America. The average consumption of avocados in Europe has doubled in the last ten years and despite a shortage of supply and a hefty price increase there is no dampening of our passion for this weird fruit!
Apparently, it was an Irishman, Hans Sloane from Co. Down, who in 1696 while documenting plants in Jamaica, came up with the name avocado – as its native Aztec name, Ahuacati, was too difficult to pronounce! He might have been saving us from embarrassment as the Aztec name can be translated into “testicle” referring to its shape and reputed aphrodisiac powers. Slowly but surely, with the help of the Spanish conquistadors, the avocado made its way back to Europe. Now, five hundred years later, we are most grateful of that name change as we munch away on our avocados without any blushes!
The avocado provided great nutrition to the ancient Aztecs as it is almost a perfect food, in that it supplies most of the vital nutrients needed for our survival. The avocado tree can produce up to 300 avocados in a season and has the added bonus of not ripening on the tree, but only after picking, reducing wastage and spoiled crops. Its thick skin and high antioxidant content of vitamin C, E and carotenoids ensures its goodness stays intact during its travels around the World. Nowadays, science has revealed the wealth of nutrients contained in the creamy flesh of the avocado which is impressive. Rich in vitamins C, E, K, B6, B2, B3, B5 and folate as well as carotenoids - betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, this fruit sets itself apart like no other. It is the only fruit that provides a significant amount of monounsaturated fat, with olives being a close second best. This healthy fat is attributed to the health benefits noted in the Mediterranean diet for longevity, cardiovascular health and glowing skin. The high fat content of this fruit satisfies our appetite, reducing cravings and overeating and can slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates to glucose, keeping our blood sugar stable.
Avocado is made up of 73% water, 15% fat, 8.5% carbohydrates (mostly fibre) and 2% protein. Although often considered fattening, this nutritional profile tells a different story. The carbohydrate content is mostly indigestible fibre which provides nutrition for our gut flora, which in turn, provide us with enhanced immunity, vitamin K and B vitamins as well as helping out in numerous other bodily tasks. The fat content comes from the type of fat our bodies love for brain function, supple skin, joint mobility, heart and vascular health, hormones and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Naturally occurring plant-sterols found in avocados help reduce bad cholesterol and inflammation. Carotenoids – betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are known to stave off Age-related Macular Disease (AMD) and are abundant in avocado. The fat of the avocado helps our bodies absorb these carotenoids and deliver them to their target organs, the eyes.
The spectrum of B vitamins in avocado is also remarkable and with regular consumption can offset some of the negative aspects of modern living – stress, fatigue, anxiety and unease. The Aztecs were probably right calling it an aphrodisiac because the avocado has all the ingredients to keep a body and mind youthful, healthy and vibrant, useful qualities for throwing shapes in and out of the bedroom!
It is tempting to think if something is good for you, more is better – be careful not to go overboard with avocado. To enjoy the health benefits of avocado, eat about a quarter avocado with low calorie foods such as summer fruits, salads, leaves and vegetables. The avocado naturally complements these foods and greatly enhances the uptake of nutrients when eaten together. There is no need to add other high fat foods to meals with avocado, such as nuts, oils, cheeses or dairy foods. Sliced, diced, mashed or puréed it is the perfect accompaniment to Summer eating so enjoy it frequently now through to September and then leave it off the menu until next year again. As with all good aphrodisiacs, creativity and timing is everything!
Researched and written by Irene
Ré Nua Natural Health Blog
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