The avocado (Persea Americana) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America. The fruit of the tree is also called an avocado or sometimes referred to as an alligator pear because of its dark green, usually rough surfaced skin. It can be pear-shaped, egg-shaped or spherical and it has a pale green fleshy interior with a large single seed.
Avocados are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world and are a commercially valuable product. The trees are partially self-pollinating and can be propagated through grafting. The fruit ripens after they are harvested.
About 75% of an avocado’s energy comes from fat, most of which is monounsaturated (oleic acid). Saturated fat content is about 14% of the total fat. Avocados also contain 35% more potassium than bananas and have a very high dietary fiber content as well as folic acid, Vitamins B5, B6, K, C, E and traces of other minerals and vitamins.
Studies have shown that avocados, if eaten often, lowered blood cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados, test patients showed a 22% decrease in both LDL (harmful cholesterol) and triglyceride levels and a 11% increase in HDL (helpful cholesterol) levels. A 2013 study funded by the Hass Avocado Board showed that American avocado consumers had better overall diet quality, nutrient levels, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome (storage of fat).
Avocado oil is pressed from the avocado flesh and used as a food oil, an ingredient in other dishes and as a cooking oil. It is also used for lubrication and in cosmetics, where it is valued for its supposed regenerative and moisturizing properties.
As a cooking oil it has an unusually high smoke point, both unrefined (480 ⁰F – 240 ⁰C). The exact smoke point depends heavily on the quality of refinement and the way the oil has been handled up until reaching store shelves and subsequent kitchens.
Because the avocado is a year-round crop, some olive oil processing facilities, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, process olive oil during the olive season and avocado oil during the rest of the year. Extra virgin avocado oil from the Hass variety has a characteristic flavor, is high in monounsaturated fatty acids with a high smoke point making it a good oil for frying. Hass cold-pressed avocado oil is a brilliant emerald green when extracted; the color is attributed to high levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids extracted into the oil. As a culinary oil, avocado oil compares well with olive oil. It has a similar monounsaturated fat profile which helps to protect the oil from breakdown during heating and can be used for baking, stir-fry, deep-fry, sear, barbecue, roast and sauté. Avocado oil is one of few edible oils not derived from seeds; it is pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit.
Avocado oil is extracted for cosmetic use because of its very high skin penetration and rapid absorption. The avocado flesh is pre-dried to remove as much water as possible as approximately 65% of the flesh is water. For cosmetic use, avocado oil is normally extracted with solvents at elevated temperatures. After extraction the oil used for skin care products is usually refined, bleached and deodorized, resulting in an odorless yellow oil.
Allergies or Toxicity
There are some people who may be allergic to avocados” those with tree-pollen allergies and those who may be allergic to latex based fruit, avocados being one of these. Depending upon the allergic reaction, symptoms may vary from swelling of the mouth and throat or in the case of latex allergy to various levels of abdominal pain, vomiting and in rare cases the allergy can be life threatening.
The avocado pit can be grown as a houseplant by partially submerging in a small container of water until it splits and begins to sprout. At this point it can be planted in normal potting soil. However, the leaves, bark and pits have been found to be harmful to cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds. Any part of the avocado plant is also harmful to cattle, goats and horses. These animals can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume them.
Whether you eat avocados in Guacamole spread (Mexico), as a dessert (Brazil) a juice (Ethiopia) or in sandwiches, salads, or sushi – as they are used around the world – they are a very good addition to your healthy diet.