Eating Avocado Is Good for You: 23 Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Few other fruits can boast the distinctive flavor and texture profile of avocado.
Its smooth, creamy consistency is unmistakable, as is its subtle flavor.
Avocados are used in cuisines all around the world - everything from guacamole in Mexico to sushi rolls in Japan.
And no wonder - avocados add some delightful smoothness to any dish.
But did you know that avocados are also rich with nutrition? In this article, you’ll learn all about their health benefits.
But first, let’s begin by talking a bit more about this amazing fruit!
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What Are Avocados?
You’ll find avocados in the produce section of just about any grocery store.
When they are unripe, they are green in color; after that, they usually have a purplish hue.
They are the fruits which grow from the avocado tree, formally known as Persea Americana.
Avocado fruits are actually berries. In the center, each contains one large seed, sometimes called a "pit."
The fruits are occasionally referred to as "alligator pears," a reference to their shape and the texture of their skins.
The taste of avocados is light and delicate, best described on the whole as a “nutty” flavor.
KEY POINT: Avocados are the fruits produced by the avocado tree. Their soft, creamy flesh surrounds a large seed.
History of Avocados
Since avocados have grown throughout South and Central America for thousands of years, they have also been part of regional diets since ancient times.
It is believed that avocado trees are native to South Central Mexico, perhaps originating in the Tehuacan Valley (1).
Archaeological evidence suggests that the trees also were growing in South America anywhere from 8,000-15,000 years in the past.
The first European to write about avocados was probably Martín Fernández de Enciso.
He referenced avocados in his 1519 book titled, Suma De Geographia Que Trata De Todas Las Partidas Y Provincias Del Mundo.
Avocados were however described in more detail by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in his 1526 work, Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias.
It was however not until 1669 that the word "avocado" cropped up in a text by naturalist Hans Sloane.
Somewhat amusingly, the word is derived from the Spanish term aguacate, which is itself derived from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl, which translates to "testicle."
In various parts of the world, avocados are known by different names. In the UK, you may sometimes find it sold as "avocado pear."
In India, you can try shopping for "butter fruit." In Taiwan, it is "cheese pear."
In Central America, you will find it sold under the Quechua-derived name palta.
KEY POINT: Avocados may have originated in Mexico.
They have been cultivated and eaten in South and Central America since ancient times.
Types of Avocados
There are actually a number of different types of avocado cultivars on the market.
Some of the most common ones include:
Around 80% of avocados for sale fall under this category. Hass avocados all come from trees which were descended from the same mother tree.
This tree was patented in 1935 by its grower, Rudolph Hass, then a mail carrier living in La Habra Heights, California.
The mother tree died in 2002 from root rot, but the Hass descendent trees continue to produce delicious, nutritious avocados with nutty flavors and dark skin.
This type of avocado is commonly grown in south Florida, and indeed was first produced in Miami.
It does a great job resisting disease, making it a hardy cultivar.
This cultivar produces an oval-shaped avocado which is a little bit smaller than typical Hass avocados.
The yield for Gwen avocados tends to be higher than it is for Hass avocados.
This is one of the newer cultivars of avocados. During the 1990s, it was discovered by A.G. Joubert in South America.
It is unknown how this cultivar came into being.
This cultivar was grown on the land of George Cellon in Miami, and was named after his wife.
It has a high oil content, and has become a popular cultivar in Florida.
In 1948, James S. Reed of California found a seedling and used it to grow the Reed cultivar.
This type of avocado tree produces fruits which are large and round with glossy, dark skin.
This cultivar is named for the ranch on which it was first cultivated during the 1970s in California.
It is a cross between Hass and Rincon avocados which produces a large fruit with a small seed.
It does a great job producing a high yield and can stand up well to cold temperatures (true of many of the cultivars on this list).
This not a full list of all avocado cultivars - just some of the most common ones.
You may also encounter cultivars like Bacon, Brogden, Sharwil, Zutano, and so on.
Interestingly enough, there are actually seedless avocados (2).
These are sometimes called "cocktail avocados."
Cocktail avocados look quite a bit different from regular avocados.
They have a different shape - long and thin, usually around 5-8 centimeters in length.
They come about when seeds fail to develop from unpollinated blossoms. Sometimes these seedless avocados grow by accident.
When that happens, the fruits tend to come out small (3), so they usually are thrown away instead of sold.
The cocktail avocados on the other hand are large enough to eat.
Both the soft, smooth interior of the fruit and its skin can be eaten, so there is no need to cut the avocados.
One can simply consume them whole.
Unfortunately, cocktail avocados are not commonly grown, so it is rare to come across them at the supermarket.
Needless to say, if you ever get the chance to try them, you should.
KEY POINT: There are quite a few different types of avocados on the market.
By far the most common cultivar is the Hass avocado, accounting for the vast majority of the market share.
23 Health Benefits of Avocados
Now you know more about the history of avocados and the different cultivars you might stumble across at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
Let’s explore some of the health benefits of these creamy, delicious fruits.
The following are 23 health benefits of avocados:
1. Avocados are chock full of nutrition.
First of all, eating an avocado provides your body with an abundance of nutrition.
Eating just one avocado (4) can give you:
- Protein: 4 grams (8% DV)
- Vitamin A: 293 IU (6% DV)
- Vitamin C: 20.1 mg: (33% DV)
- Vitamin E: 4.2 mg (21% DV)
- Vitamin K: 42.2 mcg (53% DV)
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg (9% DV)
- Riboflavin: 0.3 mg (15% DV)
- Niacin: 3.5 mg (17% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.5 mg (26% DV)
- Folate: 163 mcg (41% DV)
- Pantothenic Acid: 2.8 mg (28% DV)
- Monounsaturated Fat: 19.7 g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 221 mg
- Magnesium: 58.3 mg (15% DV)
- Phosphorus: 105 mg (10% DV)
- Potassium: 975 mg (28% DV)
- Dietary fiber: 13.5 g (54% DV)
That is just from eating a single avocado!
A lot of people eat avocados in much smaller quantities, but there is no reason you cannot eat an entire avocado.
Do it now and again and your body will thank you.
KEY POINT: Avocados contain ample vitamins, healthy fats, and other nutrients which your body needs.
2. Avocados are a particularly good source of potassium.
Are you getting enough potassium in your diet? Perhaps not. Low potassium intake is a common issue even in first world countries.
Indeed, the Institute of Medicine recommends that individuals get around 4,700 mg of potassium daily.
Despite this fact, the average potassium intake for Americans is closer to 2,640 mg per day (5).
That is obviously a substantial deficit.
Potassium has many health benefits. One of the most important is that it lowers blood pressure, protecting cardiovascular health (5).
So it is important to make sure you are actually getting enough potassium in your diet.
When someone recommends to you that you increase your potassium, your first thought is probably to go and grab a banana, right?
One medium-sized banana (6) contains 422 mg of potassium, which is equivalent to 12% of your recommended daily value.
That is a substantial dose of potassium, but remember how much is contained in one avocado?
975 mg, which equates to 28% of your recommended daily value.
That means that one avocado gives you more than twice the amount of potassium that you get from a single medium-sized banana.
Personally, I love learning this, because I have difficulties eating bananas.
Their texture is problematic to me, and triggers a gag reflex (which is a shame, because they are tasty).
So if you are like me and for whatever reason cannot eat bananas (or just dislike them), you will be happy to know that you can just load up on avocados to keep your blood pressure levels healthy.
KEY POINT: Protect your cardiovascular health by getting more potassium in your diet.
While bananas are a good source, avocados are an even better one.
3. These tasty fruits are also a great source of vitamin K.
While reading the nutritional information for avocados, you might have noticed that a single avocado gives you more than half of your recommended daily value for vitamin K.
Vitamin K does not get a lot of attention during most everyday nutritional discussions, but it does come up a great deal among pregnant and breastfeeding women.
The reason is that there is a potentially fatal bleeding disorder which can occur during the early part of infancy called "vitamin K deficiency bleeding," usually just abbreviated as VKDB.
VKDB occurs when concentrations of vitamin K are low in breast milk (7).
As the name infers, infants with VKDB are unable to form blood clots properly, which means that external or internal bleeding may be uncontrollable.
Blood loss or bleeding into certain organs (like the brain) can lead to death.
Even at best, breast milk does not actually contain large amounts of vitamin K, which is why the CDC recommends (8) that all newborns receive a vitamin K shot.
Eventually, our intestines are able to produce vitamin K, but helpful bacteria are required for this.
Newborns lack these bacteria, and also are unable to get vitamin K from the placenta, save in very tiny amounts.
As a result, infants come into the world with almost no vitamin K.
According to the CDC, you cannot rely on breast milk alone to give your baby sufficient vitamin K - the shot is a necessity.
But anything you can do as a mother to ensure that your breast milk is as nutritious as possible can help your baby to stay safe and healthy.
Eating more avocados and other foods rich in vitamin K can help you to provide your infant with a nutritious diet which prevents VKDB.
So whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding or not, getting more vitamin K in your diet is a good thing.
KEY POINT: Avocados are a great source of vitamin K, a nutrient which is very important for preventing VKDB in infants.
Getting more vitamin K can also improve general blood clotting and bone health.
4. Eating more avocados is a wonderful way to load up on healthy fats.
If you grew up nervous about eating fat (and a lot of us did, however unjustly), you may have avoided avocados because they are so high in fat.
Around 77% of the total calories in avocados come in the form of fat.
But in actuality, fat is not a bad thing, so long as you are eating healthy fats, and avocados have lots of healthy fats.
The majority of avocado fat comes in the form of oleic acid.
Oleic acid incidentally is also found in olive oil. It is believed that its presence can help to reduce blood pressure (11).
It is believed that oleic acid may help to reduce the inflammatory effects sometimes observed with high-fat diets (12).
This is very important, as inflammation plays a key part in the development of many age-related diseases.
So the fat in avocado is not something to fear. It can actually bring quite a few health benefits into your life.
KEY POINT: Even though fats have been given a bad name over the years, certain healthy fats can help regulate blood pressure, prevent cancer, and more.
Such is the case with oleic acid, the primary form of fat found in avocados.
5. Avocado oil is safe to cook with.
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid.
Monounsaturated fats can be contrasted with polyunsaturated fats.
Whereas polyunsaturated fats have two or more bonds, monounsaturated fats have double bonds.
The bonds in polyunsaturated fats are less stable than those in monounsaturated fats.
For this reason, avocado oil is healthier and safer for cooking than oils which consist largely of polyunsaturated fats.
The bonds remain stable even at high heat, and are less likely to oxidize.
The smoke point of avocado oil is quite high as a result (520°F/270°C) (48).
As to flavor, you already know that avocados have a pretty light taste. The same is true for avocado oil.
The subtle nutty flavor does a great job complementing dishes without overpowering them.
This makes avocado oil an excellent choice for many of your recipes.
Want to learn more about which oils are best for cooking? Check out 6 Healthiest Oils to Cook With.
6. Because of their fat content, avocados can increase absorption of nutrients from other sources.
Another benefit of the fat in avocados concerns the uptake of nutrients.
Many foods contain nutrients which are "fat-soluble."
If a nutrient is "fat-soluble," that means that it must be consumed with fat in order for your body to absorb it and use it.
Some of these nutrients include vitamins A, D, E and K.
There are also antioxidants such as carotenoids which fall under the fat-soluble umbrella.
The fat in avocado oil is perfect for increasing your intake of fat-soluble nutrients such as these.
So when you eat avocado, you not only are getting lots of great nutrition from the fruit itself, but you also are enhancing the nutritional value of the other foods you are eating during the same meal.
KEY POINT: Eat avocados with salads, salsas and other meals to increase your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants.
7. Avocados are a great source of dietary fiber.
Avocados are also a wonderful way to get your daily fiber.
As mentioned previously, one avocado contains 54% of your recommended daily amount.
Fiber is important for a number of bodily functions.
Technically, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber can help the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract to flourish (16).
Insoluble fiber also contributes to the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria (17).
Additionally, it assists our bodies with maintaining regular, healthy, predictable bowel movements and avoiding constipation.
Avocados contain both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber in a 3:1 ratio.
That means your body gets both of these essential types of fiber when you enjoy these delicious fruits.
KEY POINT: Avocados are an ample source of fiber, which provides you with a number of health benefits.
8. You can lower your cholesterol levels and your triglycerides with avocados.
If you are concerned about your heart health, one of the better foods you can eat is avocados.
The researchers conducting those studies found that avocado was able to reduce overall cholesterol levels as well as LDL cholesterol (the latter by as much as 22%).
Meanwhile, avocados were able to increase HDL cholesterol by as much as 11%.
Furthermore, eating avocados resulted in a reduction in triglycerides by as much as 20%.
These were all small studies, so larger studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Nonetheless, at this point, there is reason to be optimistic about avocados as a food for cardiovascular health.
KEY POINT: Studies suggest that you can improve your triglycerides and your cholesterol levels by eating avocados.
9. In general, eating avocados is associated with higher-quality diets and reduced instances of metabolic syndrome.
This study (28) found that people in the United States who ate avocados seemed to be healthier on the whole.
The overall quality of their diets was found to be higher, and they had increased nutrient intake (perhaps a result of the presence of the fat in the avocados, as discussed previously).
Additionally, they had a lower risk for developing metabolic syndrome.
Body weight and waist circumference were found to be significantly lower on average as well.
Does this prove that avocados specifically caused all of these benefits?
Not necessarily - it is possible that people who eat avocados are more likely to have healthier diets in general.
Nonetheless, the strong association is well worth a closer look through additional research.
KEY POINT: There is an association between avocado intake and quite a few improvements in diet and overall health.
This may indicate that avocados (on their own or as part of an overall healthy diet) can help decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome, reduce waist circumference, and more.
10. Avocado may be helpful when it comes to preventing cancer.
As of right now, there is no sure way to cure cancer, which has become an epidemic.
So anything you can do to help prevent cancer is important, and diet may play a role in that.
Avocados have been shown in initial research studies to potentially help with fighting cancer in a couple of ways.
First of all, it is possible that avocado may be able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, as found in a study on prostate cancer cells (33).
It is believed that both the lutein and monounsaturated fat content of avocado may have played a role in its success at counteracting the cancer cells.
Note that this was not a human study. The research was conducted on cancer cells in isolation.
More research on human beings is needed to determine how effective avocado is at inhibiting the proliferation of cancer.
KEY POINT: Avocados contain both lutein and monounsaturated fats, which together may help to inhibit cancer growth.
11. Avocados may be able to curb the side effects of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment. While the drug used in the treatment is targeted toward cancerous cells, healthy cells also suffer.
Indeed, many patients feel extremely fatigued following treatments sessions, and may feel very ill.
It is common to have to take a couple of days out of work for every treatment.
Quite a few patients take an extended break from work altogether.
Other possible side effects of chemotherapy include nerve damage, heart damage, infertility, and osteoporosis.
Studies have shown that the phytochemicals found in avocados may be useful when it comes to reducing chemotherapy side effects (34).
Specifically, the researchers stated that, "phytochemicals from the avocado fruit can be utilized for making active chemoprotective ingredient for lowering the side effect of chemotherapy."
That means that eating avocados on their own might not be enough to get this effect; the phytochemicals may need to be processed in a different form.
Still, this is potentially an amazing benefit of avocado.
KEY POINT: Early research shows that the phytochemicals contained in avocados may be useful in reducing chemotherapy’s side effects.
12. Achieve your weight loss goals.
Having a hard time losing weight?
There is research which suggests that eating more avocados may help.
In one study (37), it was found that eating half of a fresh Hass avocado during lunch increased satiety, reducing the desire to overeat.
In another study (38), it was found that eating avocado while dieting resulted in significant improvements in body mass, body mass index, and body fat percentage (though the control group experienced these improvements as well).
It was also found that the group that ate avocados had improvements in fatty acid blood serum levels.
This improvement was not seen in the control group.
KEY POINT: If you are dieting, you may want to consider eating more avocados.
It could increase your satiety and also improve your fatty acid blood serum levels, contributing to your weight loss efforts.
It will have no negative effects on your body fat percentage, body mass index or body mass.
13. Potentially relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis.
There are extracts called "avocado unsaponifiables" which can be derived from avocado oil.
Note that at this point, it is unknown whether eating avocados can produce this effect, or whether the extract itself is needed.
KEY POINT: Research shows that avocado unsaponifiables can be used to treat arthritis.
14. Protect your liver from damage.
If you are looking for a food you can eat to protect your liver, avocados may be a great choice.
Note however that many of the studies which have been conducted on avocados and liver health have been on animals.
More research on humans subjects is warranted.
KEY POINT: The compounds in avocados have been found to provide protection to the liver.
15. Improve psychological health.
You already know that avocados are high in fatty acids. Fatty acids appear to be involved with regulating mood.
Indeed, there is evidence which suggests that diets which are high in healthy fats like the monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados may help to reduce depression risk (conversely, those which are high in unhealthy trans-fats can make the risk higher) (41).
Another nutrient which avocados are high in is vitamin B6.
There is some research which suggests that low levels of vitamin B6 may be linked with depression (42).
Does that mean that more vitamin B6 can help stave off depression?
The researchers in the linked study report that more research is required before we can say definitively whether this is the case.
Nonetheless, it seems logical that vitamin B6 may be a helpful treatment for depression.
So this is yet another way in which eating more avocados may be able to help level out and improve mood.
KEY POINT: The nutrients in avocados may make these fruits a delicious natural treatment for mood disorders such as depression.
16. Protect your brain against cognitive decline.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia currently kills 1 in 3 seniors.
Between 2000 and 2014, there was also an 89% increase in deaths from Alzheimer’s.
So this problem is on the rise.
If you are in one of the younger generations, by the time you reach old age, your chances of dying from Alzheimer’s could be even higher.
There is no sure way to prevent dementia, and no cure if you get it.
For this reason, you need to protect your cognitive health in any way you can.
Can avocados help? Maybe they can.
One of the same nutrients in avocados which may help regulate mood can also potentially provide a neuroprotective effect.
This study (43) looked at elderly subjects in Italy who were eating a Mediterranean diet which was high in monounsaturated fatty acids.
It was found that this diet "appeared to be protective against age-related cognitive decline."
Further research is needed, but this is an exciting indication that adding more avocados to your diet could help to safeguard your brain function.
KEY POINT: The monounsaturated fatty acid content of avocados could be useful in protecting brain health.
More research is warranted.
17. Avocado may assist with wound healing.
Another very interesting study on avocado concerns wound healing (45).
Although this study was done on rats, it did show that the rate of wound healing increased with the use of avocado.
So if you want to speed up a healing process, adding more avocados to your diet or using them topically could help out.
KEY POINT: Researchers have found that avocados can speed up wound healing.
18. Eating avocados can protect your eye health.
Two of the antioxidants found in avocados include lutein and zeaxanthin.
As both of these problems are common among the elderly, it pays off to do what you can to protect your eyesight throughout your lifetime.
Eating more avocados may help you do that.
KEY POINT: Avocados contain antioxidants which are important for eye health, and which may help you prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
19. Avocados have antimicrobial qualities.
In this study (44), researchers were able to isolate a new antibacterial agent from avocados.
These antimicrobial qualities could have a number of benefits for your health.
For one, the antibacterial compounds in avocado could counteract excess bacteria in your mouth as you eat, potentially reducing halitosis (bad breath).
For another, direct topical application of avocado oil to the skin could potentially help to fight skin infections.
This is somewhat speculative, and more research is needed in this area to confirm the exact benefits of avocado from an antibacterial standpoint.
KEY POINT: Researchers have discovered that avocado has antimicrobial properties.
This could provide a number of potential health benefits.
20. Avocado oil can protect your skin from damage.
If you have been searching for a healthy, natural treatment for your skin, you have found one in the form of avocado oil.
Remember those antioxidants I mentioned earlier called lutein and zeaxanthin?
This study (46) had some fascinating results to report on the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on skin health.
For one, these antioxidants can help protect your skin from UV rays.
This may reduce the appearance of discoloration and the leathery texture which often result from sun damage.
It could also provide a protective effect against free radicals, potentially reducing the risk of developing UV-induced cancers.
Treating topically or orally with avocados or avocado oil may thus help keep you safe from skin disease.
KEY POINT: Avocado oil’s antioxidants may help reduce the effects of UV rays on your skin, preventing discoloration and texture changes while reducing the risk of cancer.
21. Reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age lines.
The same study cited above (46) also found that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin have cosmetic benefits for skin.
They can increase the lipids found in the surface of your skin, while also boosting hydration and elasticity.
As we age, reduced collagen production causes our skin to lose elasticity.
This combined with dryness is exactly what tends to result in the appearance of wrinkles and age lines.
Since avocado can directly counteract these effects through its antioxidant content, it can help to keep skin firm, smooth, fresh and youthful-looking.
Interestingly, the study found that either topical or oral administration of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin can result in all of these skin benefits.
The researchers did note however that the most dramatic results were obtained if both protocols were followed.
In short, you should be eating more avocados and applying avocado oil topically to your skin to obtain the full benefits.
KEY POINT: If you want to reduce the appearance of aging in your skin, applying avocado topically and/or eating more avocado may deliver the antioxidants your skin needs to increase elasticity and moisture.
22. Avocado may be useful in hair care.
You now know that avocado has moisturizing properties.
Those same properties which help to hydrate your skin can also hydrate your hair.
As of right now, there does not seem to be a lot of research in this area, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that avocado makes a great hair care treatment.
For one thing, you will find avocado oil listed as an ingredient in plenty of hair care products (and skincare products for that matter).
For another, online you will find a lot of recipes for hair masks which use avocado.
- 1 avocado (dispense with the skin and the seed)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 drops of essential oil of your choice
- Begin by mashing up the avocado oil.
- Pour in the olive oil, honey and essential oil (the essential oil is optional - you can skip it if you do not have any you want to use).
- Mix everything together thoroughly.
- Get your hair damp.
- Rub the mixture into your scalp and hair. Cover as much as possible.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap.
- Consider applying heat.
- Wait at least 15 minutes.
- Rinse it out thoroughly.
- Wash your hair as you usually do with shampoo and conditioner, and let it dry. Once it does, you should have shiny, hydrated locks.
This recipe should make enough for shoulder-length hair. If your hair is longer, you may want to double it.
If you search around, you will find plenty of variations on this idea.
Experiment with different ingredients and find out what gives you the best results for smooth, shiny, hydrated hair.
KEY POINT: The hydrating properties of avocado make it a good hair care treatment.
You can buy products which contain avocado oil, or you can make a hair mask using the whole fruit.
23. Treat type 2 diabetes.
Another impressive way that avocado can bolster your health is by improving your lipid profile and insulin levels.
Avocados are a great source of those monounsaturated fatty acids.
That means that eating avocados regularly can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.
KEY POINT: If you have type 2 diabetes or you are concerned with getting it, eating more avocados may help improve your insulin levels.
Tips for Buying Avocados
Now that you know more about the nutritional benefits of avocados, let’s talk a bit about buying avocados.
Shopping for avocados is not like shopping for most fruits.
Usually it is pretty easy to pick out an apple, orange, or banana at the grocery store and know you are getting a ripe, tasty fruit.
But avocados are fussier. If they are even slightly under-ripe or over-ripe, they can present issues with both flavor and texture.
Under-ripe avocados are edible, but most people do not enjoy them as much as ripe avocados.
They tend to be tougher, and lack the creamy, soft consistency that avocados are pried for.
They may also have a slightly "slimy" aspect to them.
As to overripe avocados, these tend to be turning yellowish or brownish inside in when you open them.
Most annoying is the fact that avocados which are overly ripe tend to get stringy. This stringiness totally disrupts the avocado experience.
If you have texture issues with food, this is simply unacceptable.
The key to avoiding these issues is to do either of two things:
- Buy your avocados when they are under-ripe, and then wait for them to ripen at home.
- Buy your avocadoes when they are ripe, and eat immediately.
Either way, this means you must learn to recognize a ripe avocado from the outside. This is hard to do, but with practice, you can excel.
Here are some tips to help you select a ripe avocado:
- Avoid avocados which are super hard, unless you want to wait a number of days to eat them. These are usually under-ripe. Very shiny skin is another giveaway that an avocado may not yet be ripe. Hass avocados are typically green when they are under-ripe, and start to darken as they get ripe.
- Steer clear of avocados which are mushy and have noticeable dents in their skin - or which dent easily when you handle them. They are overripe. These avocados may also be very dark in color (unless they are Florida cultivars, in which case they may still be light green or even yellowish at this stage).
- Look underneath the dry little button of the stem end. If it is brown, then the avocado is over-ripe.
A ripe avocado is not totally firm, but it is not really "soft" either. It has just a little bit of give to it.
Pushing into it with your thumb, it should be firm, but not unyielding.
I think of it as a bit like the feeling of pushing into the top part of my forearm with my thumb.
It is about the same level of "give" - just a little less.
Over time, you will get better and better at pinpointing what "ripe" feels like.
Try not to press too hard on avocados when you are checking them.
If you do, you will bruise them, which may be an annoyance to you or other buyers.
Keep in mind however that even if you do an amazing job picking out avocados according to how they feel, you may still find quite a wide range of quality when you cut them open.
Personally, I am usually only totally ecstatic with maybe 1 out of every 10 avocados I buy.
Unless one is in the perfect sweet spot of ideal ripeness, I usually find things to gripe about.
That said, I rarely end up with absolute duds anymore.
But I admit to being a fussy eater when it comes to textures, so you probably will find you have better luck than me.
One thing I will say is that quality issues can vary vastly from one supermarket to another.
I recall when I visited in Southern California, finding high-quality avocados was not all that difficult.
There I probably was ecstatically happy with around half of the avocados I bought.
But since moving to the North, my luck with avocados has been pretty terrible by comparison. Some stores are better than others, though.
So how easy it is to buy ripe, delicious avocados with the smooth, creamy texture you want depends on where you live and where you shop as well as your skills in identifying ripeness.
KEY POINT: Buying ripe, tasty avocados is much more challenging than purchasing other ripe fruit.
It is a skill you have to develop, but given time and experience, you can select delicious avocados. You will have better luck in some regions than others.
Tips for Storing Avocados
Once you have your avocados, what is the best way to store them?
Avocados can be stored at room temperature or they can be refrigerated.
You can either store them without cutting them, or you can cut them open and store them.
Keep in mind that it is better to store them uncut.
Just like any other fruits, avocados oxidize when their skin is cut. That means that they will turn brown if you leave their flesh exposed to the air.
To some degree, you can stave off oxidation by applying an acidic treatment to your avocado halves before you store them.
Some options to consider include citrus juice, onion juice, tomato juice or vinegar.
This is one of the reasons why lemon or lime juice may be included in many guacamole recipes.
It is not just for the flavor; it is also for the preservative effect.
Each of the acidic treatments mentioned of course will modify the flavor of the avocado.
Plastic wrap can also help to keep your avocado from browning. Refrigeration can help as well.
You also should choose to refrigerate an avocado (cut or uncut) if your goal is to keep it from ripening or preserve its ripeness.
But if you want an avocado to ripen, it is more sensible to store it at room temperature to encourage this process.
KEY POINT: You can store your avocados in the fridge or at room temperature.
Just be aware that cut avocados brown if they are not treated.
Should You Freeze Avocados?
Is it okay to take a bunch of perfectly ripe avocados and throw them in the freezer for later?
Will their delicious ripe goodness be time-locked until you need it?
The answer is, "It depends on who you ask."
I have found plenty of articles which say that freezing avocados is just fine.
I have found plenty more which say the exact opposite.
This post seems to be a good summary of the situation.
Based on what I have read in articles and comments (I have never tried freezing an avocado personally), it seems likely that freezing an avocado does ruin its texture, but that it might still be suitable for smoothies.
KEY POINT: Can you freeze an avocado? Yes. Should you? It depends on your taste apparently, and how you plan to use that avocado.
Heat Avocados At Your Peril
Heating avocados seems to be in the same area as freezing them. Sure, you can do it, but you probably do not want to.
I have found that heating up avocados results in a taste and texture which is similar to what they get when they are overly ripe.
I have never tried actually cooking avocados in the oven or on the stovetop, but reheating them in the microwave usually leads to rather unappetizing results.
Their flavor changes in a way which is hard to put into words. I think I could say that it is more "bitter" however.
This is probably why the vast majority of recipes which use avocado do not involve cooking it.
I highly recommend before you reheat your Mexican leftovers that you scoop out the avocado and set it aside first.
That way you will not ruin it in the microwave.
KEY POINT: Avocados are best enjoyed without cooking in most cases. It is best not to heat them in the microwave.
How to Grow Avocados
If you want, you can try to grow avocados yourself.
Gardeners report that they are not the hardest plants to cultivate.
Remember, many of them can even tolerate a fair amount of cold weather.
Here is how you can grow avocados:
- Start by removing the seed from an avocado.
- Rinse the seed off and dry it completely.
- Insert several toothpicks into the middle of the seed. Fill a glass with water, and then put the avocado seed on top, using the toothpicks to hold it in place so that it is partway underwater and partway above.
- Set the glass with the seed somewhere warm. Keep the water level the same, and wait anywhere from 2-6 weeks.
- Eventually, the seed will sprout, forming roots and a stem.
- Measure and check when the stem becomes six inches long. At that point, trim it in half.
- Wait for the stem to leaf. When it does, it is time to take it out of the glass of water and move it into a pot.
- Fill the pot with soil. The best type to use is sandy and loose in texture.
- Put the pot somewhere sunny. Water it often, but only do so lightly.
- Whenever the stem grows six inches, cut back the most recent leaves. This will encourage the plant to grow.
While avocados can thrive even in the cold, they are happier in hotter climates.
But if you think the temperature will dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you probably should think about moving your avocados indoors during the winter.
KEY POINT: If you enjoy gardening, you can try growing your own avocados.
That way you can take advantage of their healthy benefits while saving some costs.
How to Eat Avocados
It may seem obvious how to eat an avocado, but I will tell you something quite silly about myself - it wasn’t for me.
I am used to peeling fruit.
I had a food aversion toward avocados for most of my life, and then started eating them in college.
Since I had avoided them like the plague before, I had never seen anyone cut one and eat it.
So what did I attempt to do? I tried to peel my avocados.
Peeling an avocado is a painstaking and ridiculously hard thing to do. The peel breaks off in tiny little bits. It’s very frustrating.
Amazingly, people who watched me do this never said anything. I can’t imagine how hard they were laughing on the inside.
So don’t peel your avocados (someone out there has to be foolish enough to make the same mistake I did).
Just grab a knife, slice the avocado in half, working around the seed, and then scoop out the seed.
You can then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the avocado and eat it.
The tastiest and creamiest flesh is usually right around the seed.
If there are going to be stringy bits, they are usually located mostly toward the ends.
The color of the avocado should not concern you if it is ripe.
Whether it is yellowish or a deeper green, it should be good.
Little brown spots also usually are not rot or mold; they are just bruises, and you can ignore them.
KEY POINT: Avocados are to be sliced, not peeled. The creamiest flesh is usually right around the seed.
Don’t Injure Yourself
Another thing worth mentioning is that you should be very careful when slicing through an avocado.
Knife injuries while slicing avocados are incredibly common.
A friend of mine recently told me that he had severely gashed his hand while trying to slice an avocado and had gone to the ER.
When he arrived, one of the ER workers took one look at him and said, "Avocado?"
Initially, I found this story somewhat humorous - maybe it was the way he told it.
Maybe it was my shock at hearing that avocado injuries are that common.
In any case, avocado injuries can be quite dangerous. And they really are very pervasive - and apparently on the rise.
They are so common right now that they have even earned the moniker, "avocado hand."
The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons have stated that they are seeing more and more patients showing up at ERs with avocado hand.
Why is avocado hand becoming more common?
It is hard to say, but it probably has something to do with the increasing popularity of the fruit among the Millennial generation.
Avoiding avocado hand is not difficult. Whatever you do, do not slice the avocado while you are holding it in your hand.
What you should do is simply set it down on a cutting board and then cut it.
You can hold the top of the avocado with one hand, and then use that hand to turn it while you slice through the center horizontally with your knife in the other hand.
This ensures that the knife is never pointed in the direction of your hand. So if it slips, it won’t go through your palm or fingers.
This video shows how you can do this:
KEY POINT: Avocado hand is a serious and growing problem. Don’t send yourself to the emergency room through unsafe knife handling.
Slice your avocados with care.
Simple Avocado Recipes
Now you know all about shopping for avocados and eating them.
While scooping avocado flesh out with a spoon and eating it plain is perfectly enjoyable, there are numerous recipes which use avocados.
Here are a few simple ones you can try.
1. Strawberry Avocado Salad
- 1 avocado
- 2 cups salad greens
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ACV
- 10 sliced strawberries
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- Pour the honey, vinegar, olive oil, sugar and lemon juice into a bowl and stir them all together. This will be your dressing.
- Add the salad greens, strawberries and avocado to a separate bowl. The avocado should be sliced, with the seed and skin discarded.
- Pour the dressing on top and then add the pecans.
You can serve this salad right after it is prepared, or you can put it in the fridge for later.
You may want to omit the sugar if you are on a low carb diet.
2. Avocado Salad Dressing
- 2 avocados
- 1/3 cup milk
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Hot pepper sauce to taste
- Start by scooping out the avocado flesh and discarding the seeds and skins.
- Mash up the avocados.
- Stir the mashed-up avocados together with all the other ingredients. Mix until they are well-blended and have a creamy consistency.
This works great as a salad dressing, bread dip, etc.
3. Easy Guacamole
- 3 avocados
- 1 juiced lime
- ½ diced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (fresh)
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Mash up the avocados in a bowl.
- Stir in the remainder of the ingredients.
- Once they are well-mixed, eat immediately or refrigerate (covered in plastic wrap) as desired.
4. Avocado Spinach Dip
- 1 avocado
- 2 cups spinach (fresh)
- ¼ cup chopped red onion
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper (chopped and seeded)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (ground)
- Hot sauce to taste
- Get a food processor and use it to blend the avocado, spinach, sour cream, lime juice, red onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, and jalapeno pepper. It should have a creamy consistency when it is done.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for an hour. Make sure it is covered with plastic wrap.
Now you have a few fast and easy ways to enjoy avocado!
KEY POINT: Many avocado recipes are fast and simple to prepare, and often involve no actual cooking.
What Can You Do With Under-Ripe or Overripe Avocados?
Now there are going to be times when you open an avocado only to discover it is less ripe or more ripe than you thought it would be.
This may leave you wondering if there is any way to salvage these disappointing fruits.
Happily, the answer is "yes."
Ideas for Under-Ripe Avocados
- Make avocado fries. Surprisingly enough, you can successfully fry an avocado - but this doesn’t work well if you are going in with ripe avocados. Under-ripe avocados on the other hand often work perfectly. They come out crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
- Pickle under-ripe avocados. This is another way you can soften under-ripe avocados while enhancing their flavors.
- Stir-fry your avocado. Avocados can apparently work well in stir-fry, but again, the firmer ones are better than the ones which are actually ripe and ready to eat raw.
- Grate up your avocados. Much like grated carrot, grated avocado makes a delicious topping for salads and other dishes. The firmness makes it possible to grate them; if they were any softer, the grater would just pulverize them.
- Bake an egg inside an avocado. Apparently it is also popular to pull the seed out of an avocado, put an egg inside the avocado half, and then bake it in the oven. Starting with an under-ripe avocado means you will get the creamy texture you are after when it is done.
Ideas for Overripe Avocados
- Put them in your scrambled eggs. Some people take overripe avocados and mash them up and mix them in with their scrambled eggs.
- Try baking them into fritters along with other veggies.
- Add them to your baked desserts. You can actually put avocado in brownies to make them more moist and add to their richness.
- Put them in pudding. This has the same effect as adding avocado to brownies. It enhances the moist creaminess of the result.
- Make them into a salad dressing, pasta sauce, or so on.
- Apply them to your skin or hair. Even if they are way past the point where you would ever dream of eating them, you can still enjoy their topical benefits.
KEY POINT: There is no need for an avocado which is slightly under-ripe or overripe to go to waste, even if you have already sliced it.
These ideas can help you enjoy all your avocados.
Conclusion: Avocados Are Delicious, Creamy, and Remarkably Nutritious
You may have been brought up to avoid avocados because of their high fat content - but in truth, their fat is not a drawback at all.
It is actually one of the many health benefits of these tasty, creamy fruits.
So add more avocados to your diet. Your health - and your taste buds - will thank you!
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