Eating fresh avocados every day can modify lipid characteristics and improve cholesterol levels, reports a study carried at the University of the Pacific at Stockton in California.
According to conclusions, issued in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, the use of avocados can help in maintaining normal cholesterol levels.
The research looked at ten different avocado studies with 229 participants, evaluating the impact of avocados on cholesterol levels. The researchers noticed that eating avocados (1 to 1.5 per day) decreased the total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Avocados are packed with protein and vitamins – proper nutrition has never been more neatly packaged.
Nutritional And Health Benefits
Avocados are among the most nutritious foods you can eat. Not only are they rich in protein and fiber but they are also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, E and K. They are particularly useful for promoting healthy skin, aiding digestion and preventing anemia. Eating them regularly in pregnancy is thought to prevent stretch marks.
Because they are relatively high in fat, many weight-conscious people avoid them, but in fact, they contain healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated vegetable fat. And they don’t contain any cholesterol either. Indeed, as we pointed out at the beginning, eating avocados regularly may help to lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The oil can be extracted from the fruits and is available in bottles for cooking or using in salad dressings.
Storing And Ripening Avocados
Avocados ripen best off the tree and can be bought ‘ready to eat’ or while they are still hard, then stored in the refrigerator (if you want to slow down the ripening process) or at room temperature. Keeping them in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana helps to speed up the ripening process, so they should be ready to eat in two to three days. They are ripe if they yield slightly when you press the skin gently with a finger.
Avocados discolor quickly and easily when they are cut open and exposed to the air. You can delay this oxidization process by sprinkling the cut flesh with a little lemon or lime juice. Otherwise, prepare them at the last minute just before serving. Cut them in half lengthways and discard the stone (pit). Either scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon or carefully remove the peel and cut into neat slices or cubes. If you’re going to fill the avocados or eat them as they are, brush the cut surface lightly with lemon, lime or even orange juice. If you have a remaining leftover half of avocado, sprinkle it with an acidic agent, such as lemon juice, and wrap tightly in cling film (plastic wrap). Keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before using.
Avocados have a subtle and delicate flavor, reminiscent of hazelnuts. They are neither sweet nor bitter, and in Mexico and the Caribbean they are usually flavored with hot chilies, spices, salt, and garlic, and served with tomatoes and corn tortillas. Avocados also complement chicken, seafood, and shellfish, and their creamy, silky texture offsets beans and pulses ideally. You can eat them plain and raw with a pinch of crushed sea salt, a drizzle of vinaigrette or a few drops of good balsamic vinegar, or you can cook them in a variety of recipes.
Using And Cooking Avocados
Avocados are extremely versatile and are delicious served hot or cold in so many ways. As well as their most common and well-known use as the staple ingredient in guacamole, the spicy Mexican dip, they can be added to sandwiches, salads, rice, pasta and grains and even made into chilled soups, sauces, smoothies, desserts and ice cream. They can be griddled, mashed and piled onto toast, or filled with a delicious mixture and baked in the oven or finished off under a hot grill (broiler). Or you can enjoy them the Californian way by mashing them and mixing into a vinaigrette salad dressing.
Egg & Bacon Breakfast Salad
This is an unusual and healthy twist on the more familiar egg and bacon fry up. It’s not only delicious and refreshing but more slimming than the original, too. Don’t be alarmed at the idea of adding vinegar to the poaching water for the eggs; it doesn’t affect their flavor, but it does help to coagulate the protein in the egg whites.
- 2 rashers (slices) smoked back bacon
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 ripe avocado
- 8 baby plum tomatoes, halved
- 4 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 100g/4oz (4 cups) rocket (arugula), baby spinach or mixed salad leaves
- 3 tbsp vinaigrette or balsamic dressing
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- toasted ciabatta or sourdough, to serve
- Heat a non-stick frying pan (skillet) and dry-fry the bacon for 2–3 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper (paper towels).
- Heat some water in a pan to simmering point. Add the vinegar and then gently break the eggs. Cook very gently for about 3 minutes until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.
- While the eggs are cooking, halve, stone (pit) and peel the avocado. Slice the flesh thinly and mix with the tomatoes, spring onions and salad leaves in a bowl, then toss lightly with the dressing of your choice. Divide between 2 serving plates.
- Carefully remove the poached eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and place one on top of each salad. Season lightly with salt and pepper and crumble the crispy bacon over the top. Serve at once while the eggs are warm, with toasted bread.
Or you can try this…
- Dry-fry thin slices of Parma ham and add to the salad instead of bacon.
- Vegetarians can omit the bacon and add some diced feta cheese or even vegetarian bacon-style rashers, such as Quorn.
- Experiment with different flavors: try adding chopped herbs, diced red onion, grilled red and yellow (bell) pepper strips or some crisp croûtons.
Crispy Cheesy Baked Avocados
Baked avocados make a quick and easy starter or snack, and can be bumped up to make a light meal if you serve them with a crisp salad and allow two halves per person.
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 75g/3oz sun-blush tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 4 baby plum tomatoes, diced
- 50g/2oz (½ cup) pine nuts
- few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
- 1–2 tbsp green pesto
- 4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- olive oil, for drizzling
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- rocket (arugula) or frisée (curly endive), to serve
- 1 tbsp vinaigrette dressing
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6.
- Cut the avocados in half lengthways and discard the stones (pits). Hollow them out a little with a teaspoon and put the scooped-out flesh in a bowl with the sunblush tomatoes, baby plum tomatoes, pine nuts, parsley, and pesto. Season lightly with salt and pepper and mix.
- Fill the avocado halves with this mixture and stand them in an ovenproof dish – they should fit snugly so they can’t topple over during cooking.
- Sprinkle the tops with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and bake in the oven for about 10–15 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
- Serve hot, garnished with rocket or frisée and sprinkled with vinaigrette.
Or you can try this…
- Omit the Parmesan and add some diced feta, mozzarella or goat’s cheese to the filling ingredients.
- Fill the avocado halves with salsa, top with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan and bake as above.
- Leave out the pesto and parsley, and add some diced chili and chopped coriander (cilantro). Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated Cheddar cheese and cook as above.