The incredible, edible avocado!

In our culture, avocados play a prominent role as one of the most enjoyed snacks for Americans.  In fact, it is said that 13.2 million pounds of avocado, in guacamole, are consumed in the United States on Super Bowl Sunday alone.  Interestingly enough, avocados are actually a member of the berry family and share a family tree with cinnamon!  Though avocados are considered a fruit, the majority of their culinary usage in dishes is as a vegetable.

Avocado is one of the most important and traded tropical fruits in the world, with Mexico as a major producer.  However, for the United States, California provides approximately 90% of our avocado crop.  Overall, there are about 80 different varieties of avocados; the most common, and more than likely what you are consuming, is the year-round Hass avocado.

In any form, avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C, K, Folate, and B6, and dietary fats.  One avocado has approximately 14 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, 9 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of protein, and is cholesterol free.  Monounsaturated fat found in avocados can actually reduce your cholesterol. Additionally, avocados essentially have more potassium than a banana.

The most common way to eat avocado is most likely as guacamole, but there are numerous other ways to enjoy this fruit.  Avocado is best eaten when the outside flesh is moderately soft.  To eat, simply cut the avocado in half length-wise and remove the pit before scooping out the insides.  Incorporating avocado into your diet is simple as it can be mashed or sliced and added as an accoutrement to any dish.  Avocado is a great addition to any sandwich, salad, as an alternative to butters and oils, or as is with a little salt and pepper. Even though avocado is a source of heart-healthy fats, moderate consumption should still be followed because of overall dietary fat intake.

Aside from a tasty and healthy addition to your every day diet, avocado can also be used for skin and hair care.  It may seem strange to do, but mashing up avocado and mixing with honey makes an easy (and affordable) facemask that combats dry skin and offers a natural glow.  With regards to hair, avocado has similar benefits in that it repairs dull and dry hair, while removing residue sometimes left from shampoos.  A simple mixture of olive oil and mashed avocado serves as a hair treatment that can be rinsed out after 20 minutes.

What are your favorite ways to eat an avocado?

Photo credit: ingserban

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