By Dr. Mercola
As recently as the 1970s, avocados were considered more of a delicacy than an everyday fruit. They cost about $1 each in 1974, which would be close to $5 today1 – far too pricey for most to enjoy an avocado with their salad or sandwich regularly.
Avocados still cost about $1 each in 2015,2 but the price is well worth the benefits to your health (not to mention the great taste and versatility). Still, if you don’t eat the whole avocado at once, it can be a challenge to keep the rest of it fresh, and you certainly don’t want half an avocado to go to waste…
How to Keep Your Avocado Fresh
The flesh of an avocado turns brown once it’s cut because of an enzyme that oxidizes when exposed to air. It’s not necessarily bad at this point, and you can often scrape off the top brown layer to reveal a fresh green layer underneath. However, it is unappealing, and not many people like to eat brown guacamole…
There are a number of tricks to keep avocados fresh… leaving the pit inside, sprinkling it with lemon juice, covering it with wax paper, but which methods actually work? The video above sets the record straight.
First off, I’ve found that storing avocados in the fridge – even while they’re still whole – keeps them fresh for up to two weeks. If you’ll be using only half at a time, leave the pit in the half of the avocado you’re not planning to use.
If you’ve scooped the avocado for guacamole, store the pit in the leftovers. Next, store the avocado half in a sealable plastic bag (suck out as much air as possible) and the guacamole in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
Before you reach the storage step, there are a few other tricks you can use to keep your avocado fresher longer. The video shows the results of each after 72 hours.
- Olive oil: “paint” a thin layer of olive oil onto the top of the avocado half. This creates a natural barrier to help prevent oxidation. You can use this trick with guacamole too (use a pastry brush to spread the oil on top), however, be aware that it will add an oilier flavor and texture to your dip.
- Lemon juice: Lemon juice helps to inhibit oxidation. Rub some on an avocado half or sprinkle some on top of your guacamole. It will add some lemon flavor to the avocado, which may or may not be desirable depending on your intended use.
- Onion: Place a handful of large onion chunks into the bottom of the container. Place to avocado (face up) on top. Alternatively, sprinkle the chunks of onion on top of your guacamole (and remove them when it’s time to serve).
Six Reasons to Eat Avocados
Avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Personally, I eat one almost every day. Avocados are rich sources of monounsaturated fat that your body can easily burn for energy. Because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.
One study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a whole fresh avocado with either an orange-colored tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced absorption of the carotenoids and conversion of them into an active form of vitamin A.3
A 2005 study similarly found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoid antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage.4 What else are avocados good for?
About 2.5 avocados provide the daily recommended amount of about 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte that conducts electricity in your body.
It plays an important role in heart function, skeletal health, digestion, and muscular function, and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in your body.5
Despite the fact that potassium is available in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, only 2 percent of US adults get the recommended daily amount.6 Importantly, consuming enough potassium-rich food is also important because this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.
Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but may also contribute to a number of other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
2. Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E are important antioxidants on their own… but put them together, the way they are in avocado, and the real magic happens. As reported in Critical Reviews in Food, Science, and Nutrition:7
“Avocados are one of the few foods that contain significant levels of both vitamins C and E. Vitamin C plays an important role in recycling vitamin E to maintain circulatory antioxidant protection…”
One study also found that a combination of vitamin C and E helped to slow plaque build-up, which could help prevent a heart attack or stroke.8
3. Protective Skin
Avocados have thick, bumpy skins; they were once widely known as alligator pears for this very reason. Avocados have been rated as one of the safest commercial crops in terms of pesticide application, and this is largely because their thick skins protect the inner fruit from pesticides.
So there’s no real need to spend extra money on organic avocados. I’ve even had my own team test avocados from a variety of growers in different countries, sold in several major grocery stores, and they all tested free and clear of harmful chemicals.
4. Cancer-Fighting Agents
Avocados are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids, which are most plentiful in the dark-green portion of the flesh that’s closest to the skin. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way.9
"California-grown avocados contain 11 carotenoids. According to USDA's Agricultural Research Service, avocados contain a complex package of phytonutrients, including carotenoids that may provide numerous health benefits.
Carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration. The UCLA research showed that in California avocados, the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel.”
To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you basically want to peel the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
Avocados are surprisingly high in fiber, with about 4.6 grams in half an avocado. Fiber plays an essential role in your digestive, heart, and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and more.
Contrary to popular belief, whole grains are not the best source of fiber; vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits are, including avocados. Their fiber content may be one reason why avocados are also known for their role in weight management and blood sugar support.
According to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.10 Those who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar levels.
An average avocado contains about 40 mg of magnesium, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily value. Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame.
Avocados Are Excellent for Your Heart
Avocados might help improve lipid profiles, both in healthy individuals and in those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels). Healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease in total cholesterol level following a one-week-long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados.
In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called “good” HDL cholesterol.11
One study even found that eating one-half of a medium avocado with a hamburger significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.12 According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer "promising clues" about avocado's ability to benefit vascular function and heart health.
Unique Ways to Enjoy Avocado
You’re probably used to using avocado in salads and guacamole, but you can eat them in many other ways as well. Try avocado:
- As a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter, or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
- As a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
- In soups. For examples, see Lucy Lock’s Chilled Mediterranean Soup or her Raw Creamy Carrot Soup
- Added to smoothies or your protein shake
- Baked with a soft-boiled egg in the middle for breakfast
For even more avocado uses and fun facts, see the infographic below…
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Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.