February 26, 2013

Eat good things ~ Avocados

We are lucky here in North America that we can get a variety of fruits and vegetables at almost any time of the year, however eating foods in season are healthier and more nutritious.  Of course we do not have all fruits or vegetables available even if they are in season as our climate may not support it.  So having said that, here is one of those foods that we do not have and must import...and I am thankful that we do!


I only recently discovered the health benefits of Avocados, and I must say they are very tasty too!
There is a trend of using avocados in recipes where other fats are called for.  It can be used in savory or sweet dishes...oh yes, even desserts! 

I have made a chocolate pudding and truffles (well, they became something different than truffles as I didn't realize I did not have any powdered sugar at home and not enough cocoa - how sad!)
Will post the recipe for the truffles at the end!

So here is some good information about avocados...make sure you eat some today!

Consider adding avocado to salads, and not only on account of taste! Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%. This research result makes perfect sense to us because carotenoids are fat-soluble and would be provided with the fat they need for absorption from the addition of avocado. Avocado oil added to a salad accomplished this same result. Interestingly, both avocado oil and fresh avocado added to salsa increased carotenoid absorption from the salsa as well.
The method you use to peel an avocado can make a difference to your health. Research has shown that the greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado occurs in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin. You don't want to slice into that dark green portion any more than necessary when you are peeling an avocado. For this reason, the best method is what the California Avocado Commission has called the "nick and peel" method. In this method, you actually end up peeling the avocado with your hands in the same way that you would peel a banana. The first step in the nick-and-peel method is to cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next you take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. The final result is a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh so rich in carotenoid antioxidants!

Avocado has sometimes received a "bad rap" as a vegetable too high in fat. While it is true that avocado is a high-fat food (about 85% of its calories come from fat), the fat contained in avocado is unusual and provides research-based health benefits. The unusual nature of avocado fat is threefold. First are the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats. These phytosterols include beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol and they are key supporters of our inflammatory system that help keep inflammation under control.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis. Second are avocado's polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs). PFAs are widely present in ocean plants but fairly unique among land plants—making the avocado tree (and its fruit) unusual in this regard. Like the avocado's phytosterols, its PFAs also provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits. Third is the unusually high amount of a fatty acid called oleic acid in avocado.
Over half of the total fat in avocado is provided in the form of oleic acid—a situation very similar to the fat composition of olives and olive oil. Oleic acid helps our digestive tract form transport molecules for fat that can increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. As a monounsaturated fatty acid, it has also been shown to help lower our risk of heart disease. So don't be fooled by avocado's bad rap as a high-fat food. Like other high-fat plant foods (for example, walnuts and flaxseeds), avocado can provide us with unique health benefits precisely because of its unusual fat composition.

Wide-Ranging Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Supports Cardiovascular Health
Promotes Blood Sugar Regulation
Anti-Cancer Benefits

Click here to read more about Avocados!

Avocados are native to Central and South America and have been cultivated in these regions since 8,000 B.C. In the mid-17th century, they were introduced to Jamaica and spread through the Asian tropical regions in the mid-1800s. Cultivation in United States, specifically in Florida and California, began in the early 20th century. While avocados are now grown in most tropical and subtropical countries, the major commercial producers include the United States (Florida and California), Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.

A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it was probably tree ripened and will have better flavor. A firmer, less mature fruit can be ripened at home and will be less likely to have bruises.

A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week. If you are refrigerating a whole avocado, it is best to keep it whole and not slice it in order to avoid browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to air.
If you have used a portion of a ripe avocado, it is best to store the remainder in the refrigerator. Store in a plastic bag, wrap with plastic wrap, or place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Sprinkling the exposed surface(s) with lemon juice will help to prevent the browning that can occur when the flesh comes in contact with oxygen in the air.
Many avocado recipes that you'll find in cookbooks and on the Internet include avocado as an ingredient in its raw, unheated form. In the World's Healthiest Foods recipes, we also favor this approach. We simply cannot think of a better way to preserve the health benefits made possible by avocado's unique and delicate fats. If you do plan to use avocado in a recipe that calls for heat, we recommend that you use the lowest possible temperature and least amount of cooking time that will still work with your particular recipe.

Recipe for Avocado Truffles!

Avocado-Chocolate Truffle Recipe
Recipe Type: Candy, Chocolate, Avocado, Truffles
Yields: makes many
Prep time: 25 min

1/2 cup butter
1 large very ripe avocados, peeled and pit removed*
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
Powdered sugar for rolling

* If an avocado is ripe, it will yield to a gentle pressure.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter; remove from heat; set aside.
In your food processor or food blender, puree the avocado until a smooth consistency.  NOTE: If you add a little of the melted butter to the avocado, it helps in the process. Be sure there are no chunks of avocado left.
Add the avocado puree, vanilla extract, cocoa, and powdered sugar into the saucepan with the remaining melted butter. Mix until well combined. Place the chocolate mixture into the refrigerator until it hardens.
When chocolate mixture has hardened, remove from refrigerator. Line a sheet pan or cookie sheet with waxed paper or parchment. Using a cold metal teaspoon, melon baller, or a mini ice cream scoop and your hands, roll the chocolate into small balls about 3/4-inch diameter and arrange them on the sheet pan. If the mixture gets too soft to mold easily, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes. Place the cookie sheet of chocolate balls in the refrigerator until firm.
Once the truffles have hardened, remove from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Roll in powdered sugar to coat the outside. Place the finished truffles in the refrigerator until they are set. They should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature when ready to serve.

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