RealFood Recipes: Ode to the avocado
Native to the tropics, the avocado is a versatile fruit known for its lush, buttery texture and mild, nutlike flavor. While avocados seem almost too luscious and rich to be healthful, they're actually one of the best natural sources of monounsaturated fat, the good kind of fat that is associated with a healthy heart. They're also chock-full of folate, which helps promote healthy cell and tissue development, and magnesium, which plays an important role in muscle contraction and relaxation. They even exceed the banana in potassium, which is necessary for proper nerve function and blood pressure.
Want more reasons to dig into this velvety, delicious fruit? Avocados are high in fiber and contain other vital nutrients such as vitamin E, which helps neutralize free radicals, and lutein, linked to prostate and eye health. They also contain glutathione, an antioxidant with anti-carcinogenic potential, as well as a significant amount of a cholesterol-lowering phytosterol called beta-sitosterol. And while some fat-fearing dieters complain that the avocado is calorie dense (one fruit has around 320 calories) and high in fat, the avocado's many benefits make it calorie for calorie one of the best foods around.
The two most widely sold avocado varieties are the bumpy textured, almost black Haas, and the green Fuerte, which has a thin, smooth skin. Like many fruits, avocados ripen best off the tree. The best way to tell if an avocado is ready for immediate use is to squeeze the fruit gently in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure.
Choose fruits that are free of blemishes and heavy for their size. To hasten the ripening process, you can place an avocado in a paper bag and set it aside at room temperature for two to four days. Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, but once the avocado flesh is cut and exposed to the air it tends to discolor rapidly. To reduce this unsightly effect, add avocado to a dish at the last moment.
Serve this colorful salsa as a dip or serve with grilled fish or chicken, or, for a vegetarian meal, over black beans and rice.
One ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
One ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced
One tomato, seeded, diced
Two green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
One jalapeÃ±o chili, minced
Combine all ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.
H. K. Jones is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and nutrition professional based in Washington, D.C.