Avocado the rich man's butter

Health writer-Dr Harold Gunatillake

When I was a kid, we had a big avocado tree on our backyard, in Kandy. Every year nearly 500 fruits were produced from this single tree, the branches would fall onto near ground level with such heavy bearings, and plucking was so easy. The fruits were scattered all over the ground and the drains, some smashed, others fresh with a polished looking greenish skin, and I recollect playing football with them, without ever dreaming that one day, those very fruits would belong to many popular delicacies relished all over the world, not cheap to purchase. I was later surprised to see black color crepe skinned avocados in the markets in Sydney, never seen in Sri Lanka.

My parents treated them as a nuisance, complaining about blocking the drains and needing cleanup every day, and did not know that it was a God given fruit and it was, to enjoy fresh or in so many fortified preparations.

We did scoop the flesh from the odd picked up overripe fruit, ate it with sugar sprinkled, or shake it up with milk, keep overnight in the refrigerator to drink the next morning. We had no blenders or electric mixers during and post- war to mix and produce smoothies, like today.

Today avocado fruits are getting very popular anywhere in the world. It is also called, "avocado pear" or "alligator pear". No wonder in our native language we call it,"ali gata pera". The fruit is adapted in some poor countries as one of substitutes to cope for the shortage of nutritious food production.

The fruit was originated in Mexico and Central America, and the Portuguese may have brought it to, then Ceylon. It is planted and harvested in countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, USA, Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, China, Japan, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ethiopia, Spain, Palestine, South Africa and Australia in the Northern Territory. They need to be planted mainly in tropical countries as long as the climate does not go below 5 degrees during winter months.

In the city of Xalapa in the Mexican state of Veracruz it is served in a spicy sandwich called pambazo (recipe given below). Why don't our wives give us avocado sandwiches? May be, too much of work to bother!

Mashed avocado fruit can be used instead of butter in your sandwiches. It is much more expensive than butter to use on a daily basis. "They used to call it poor man's butter" but now it is more aptly described as "rich man's butter".

Nutrients in Avocado
The main fat in avocado is monounsaturated, quite heart healthy unlike the saturated fats. The fruits are excellent source of potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and fiber. Avocados also contain glutathione, an antioxidant involved in cell protection from the noxious effect of excess oxidant stress. Avocados are also rich in the anti-oxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

It is a most popular fruit among the body builders and people who participate in active sports.

NUTRITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS
Avocado, raw

(Edible parts) Nutritional value per per 100g

Energy 670 kJ (160 kcal)
Carbohydrates 8.53 g
Dietary fiber 6.7 g
Fat 14.66 g
Protein 2.00 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.067 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.130 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3) 1.738 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) 1.389 mg
Vitamin B6 0.257 mg
Folate (Vit. B9) 81 ?g
Vitamin C 10 mg
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 0.55 mg
Magnesium 29 mg
Phosphorus 52 mg
Potassium 485 mg
Zinc 0.64 mg

Avocado meat does not increase cholesterol levels in blood as the main fat is heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Avocado is rich in natural beta-sitosterol, and the American Journal of Medicine has reported that researchers found that beta-sitosterol was able to lower LDL cholesterol in 16 human studies.

High blood pressure

Avocados are recommended for people having high blood pressure and prevent stroke. Folate, glutathione and potassium help to lower homocysteine levels, cholesterol levels and delays thickening (atherosclerosis) of arteries. These observations need further verification.

Cancer prevention

According to a report in, Journal Nutr. Biochem, 2005, the carotenoids and tocopherols (chemical compounds which may have vitamin E activity) in avocado were shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cell lines in vitro.

Studies have shown that phytochemicals extracted from the avocado fruit inhibit and kill cancer cells. Further studies are required for confirmation.

Glutathione present in avocado fruit is an anti-oxidant which helps to scavenge free radicals. Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition has stated that evidence suggests that glutathione may help prevent certain types of cancers and heart disease in humans.

Weight reduction

By replacing cheese, butter and cream with mashed avocado in sandwiches one could reduce calories. On the other hand oleic acid in the monounsaturated fat can put on weight, eating in excess amounts of the fruit.
Though rich in fats, it is highly recommended in many diet plans such as the Diet Solution Program or that Fat burning Kitchen.

Skin Health: Avocado is used in skin creams as a moisturizer and a sunscreen. It also stimulates collagen formation in the skin during healing process. Vitamin E present in avocado also helps in skin nutrition.

Avocados are a woman's best friend because they are rich in Vitamin E. Vitamin E is responsible for healthy, clear, wrinkle free skin. Avocados have the ability to penetrate deep into the pores of the skin. So, avocado masks are used in skin treatments. When compared to oils from olive, corn, soya and almonds, avocado oil has the best penetration rate. Quite naturally, avocados are being increasingly used in natural beauty products.

Low GI: The glycemic Index of avocado is as low as 15. It is an excellent energy producer for diabetes.

Those who suffer from diabetic kidneys should restrict eating avocado fruits due to its very high potassium content. These fruits have more potassium than bananas.

Constipation
Avocados are rich in dietary fiber. They prevent constipation and aid regular elimination.

Ideal for warm climates
Avocados are rich in minerals and nutrients. It is a commonly known fact that people living in the tropics suffer from water and mineral loss due to the warm climate in these regions. Since avocados are nutrient dense, they are recommended for people in the tropics.

Latex fruit allergy
People who suffer from latex fruit allergy syndrome may be allergic to avocados.
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