What is Avocado?
A fruit is the matured ovary of a flower. Basically, it consists of the ovary wall, or pericarp, which encloses one or more seeds (see figure right). The pericarp is differentiated into three layers of tissues: the outer layer is exocarp, which commonly is called the skin or rind. The middle layer is mesocarp which, generally,makes up the bulk of the pericarp. The inner layer is endocarp which, in some fruits is tough, leathery or hard, in other fruits is soft or fleshy.
All fruits may be classified into two broad categories: dry, and fleshy. The avocado falls into the latter category. There are two main classes of fleshy fruits: drupes and berries. Drupes are characterized by having a fleshy mesocarp but a tough-leathery or bony endocarp. They are said to have “stones” or “pits” rather than seeds (example: peaches). Also, a drupe usually has only a single seed. Berries, to the contrary, are characterized by having a fleshy endocarp, as well as mesocarp, and may have more than one seed. If one examines an avocado fruit cut longitudinally, as above, he sees that the exocarp is the skin or rind. It may be vary thin as in Mexican race avocados or thick and almost woody as in some of the large Guatemalan race fruits. The mesocarp is fleshy and makes up the bulk of the pericarp. The endocarp is thin, often not well differentiated from the mesocarp, and sometimes imperceptible. In some soft ripe avocados, it may adhere to the outer seed coat when the seed coat when the seed is removed from the fruit,giving the seed a sort of frosty appearance.
Now, if we go back to the introductory questions we can see why the answer to what kind of fruit is it? and why is it a berry? is: because it fits all the botanical criteria for that class of fruits.
Health benefits of avocados
“Avocados are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk for heart disease”
High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are associated with a higher risk of heart disease, but the vitamin B6 and the folic acid found in avocados can help regulate it.
A seven-year study published in 2013 in Nutrition Journal found that avocados were associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of symptoms shown to increase the risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
“Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” avocados’ “phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols” as being able to “help both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.”
Avocados may help not only lower bad cholesterol, they may also increase levels of good cholesterol. A 1996 study in the journal Archives of Medical Research found that patients with mild hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) who incorporated avocados into their diet for one week had a 22 percent decrease in bad cholesterol and triglycerides and an 11 percent increase in good cholesterol. Avocados also improved cholesterol for people who already had good lipid levels, but were shown to be especially effective in those with mild cholesterol problems. Avocados can help in this way because of their high amount of the beta-sitosterol compound, which is associated with lowering cholesterol.
Regulating blood sugar
According to Reader’s Digest, avocados’ high levels of monounsaturated fats can help stop insulin resistance, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the soluble fiber in avocados can help keep blood sugar levels steady. In comparison to other fruits, the low carb and sugar levels in avocados also help maintain blood sugar.
Regulating blood pressure
Avocados’ high levels of potassium can help keep blood pressure under control. The American Heart Association reported that potassium helps regulate the effects of salt, which can increase your blood pressure.
According to Avocado Central, the website of the Hass Avocado Board, avocados are an excellent source of the carotenoid lutein, which reduces the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant associated with immune system health. “The immune system works best if the lymphoid cells have a delicately balanced intermediate level of glutathione.” Avocados are a good source of this substance, according to American National University.
Pregnancy and preventing birth defects
According to the California Avocado Commission, avocados are a great choice for moms-to-be. Avocados contain a significant amount of folic acid, which is essential to preventing birth defects like spina bifida and neural tube defects.
“Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, skin and prostate.” This is “due to the unusual mix of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics.”
The fiber in avocados helps keep digestion on track, encouraging regular bowel movements, healthy intestines and a healthy weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The vitamin C and vitamin E in avocados help keep skin nourished and glowing.
Some Delicious Avocado Recipes
Here some delicious avocado recipes which you can cook at home very easily.
- 2 avocados, halved and pitted
- 1 orange, tangerine or pummelo peeled, sectioned
- ½ cup sliced strawberries or other berries
- ½ cup chopped mango, papaya, or pineapple
- 2 carambolas, seeded, sliced
- ½ cup low fat plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon skim milk
Blend together ingredients for yogurt-honey dressing and chill. If preparing this in advance, sprinkle avocados with lime juice, fill with cut fruit and chill; or cut the avocados just before serving and fill with prepared fruit. Serves 4.
- 2 cups avocado, diced
- 3 teaspoons lime juice
- ½ oz. blue cheese
- 3 squirts tabasco sauce, or salsa, to taste
- ½ tspoons salt
Make a paste of blue cheese, seasoning, and a small amount of the avocado. Add the diced avocado to the paste mixture, mashing with a fork. It’s best if mashed together with a fork, since a blender or food processor would leave the mixture watery. Serve as a dip for chips, as a sandwich filling, or as a salad dressing.
Chilled Avocado Soup
- 2 large green peppers
- 2 green onions
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ cups low fat milk
- 4 tablespoons plain low fat yogurt
- dash paprika
Mince peppers and onions and put in blender. Add peeled avocado pulp. Add lime juice and salt and blend. Very slowly add milk and blend. Chill. Serve with a tablespoon of yogurt on top and with a dash of paprika for color. Serves 4.
Avocado Spaghetti Salad
- 1 pkg. (8 oz.) spaghetti
- 2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, drained
- 2 sliced tomatoes
- 1 green pepper, cut in strips
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and chill. Mix mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce with salt and pepper. Combine spaghetti, onion, avocado, and tuna. Lightly mix in mayonnaise. Serve cold on lettuce and garnish with tomato and green pepper. Serves 6.