The avocado tree (Persea americana) is native to the Southern part of Central Mexico and is classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. Avocados are commercially valuable and cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world.
Avocado production in Australia is widespread with orchards found from the north-east to the south-west of the country. The major production regions are the Atherton Tablelands, around Bundaberg, and south-west Western Australia.
There are a number of varieties of avocado; it’s well worth knowing the range of varieties and when they are in season. Hass is more oval than other varieties with a distinctive pebbly skin that turns a rich purple when ripe. Hass avocados are available almost all year round from different regions of Australia with the main period of export supply from April to November.
Shepard avocados have a smooth green skin and golden buttery flesh which doesn’t turn brown when cut. This variety is available in peak supply in Australia from February to April.
Health benefits of Avocados
The versatile avocado is the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Avocados are a naturally nutrient dense food and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals.
Avocados are rich in fibre and healthy fats while naturally low in sugar and sodium. Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.
To give you a sense of how nutritionally dense Avocados are, if you eat 1/4 avocado (50g) the average adult will consume:
- 2g fibre
- 60mg folate (30% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for folate)
- 10mg Vitamin C (25% RDI for Vitamin C)
- 1mg Vitamin E (10% of RDI for vitamin E)
- Naturally low in sodium just 1.5mg per 50g serve
- Source of potassium.
Dietary carotenoids are important as they are thought to assist with decreasing the risk of disease, particularly certain cancers and eye disease. The carotenoids found in Avocados include lutein, zeaxanthin and two phytochemicals. Carotenoids are fat soluble and may dissolve in the fat of the avocado during absorption into the body; a study found that adding avocado to salads or salsa can increase the absorption of these carotenoids from other colourful vegetables.
Studies show that carotenoids are linked to a drastically reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common in the elderly. Other studies have shown that eating avocado can improve heart disease risk factors like Total, LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as blood triglycerides.
Avocados contain a high level of Folate which is important to a healthy pregnancy; adequate intake of Folate reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects. Avocados are a delicious whole food source of Folate and there are many ways to disguise avocado in foods and smoothies for the small percentage of people who don’t like this amazing fruit (see below). Research also shows that foods containing high levels of folate may help to decrease the risk of depression as folate helps to prevent the build-up of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain.
You can add them to salads and various sorts of recipes, or you can simply scoop them out with a spoon and eat them plain. They have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with various other ingredients.
Guacamole, from our point of view is arguably the most famous use of avocados. It includes avocado along with ingredients like salt, garlic, lime and a few others depending on the recipe. One of our favourite ways to add Avocado to the kids diet without them knowing, is by adding it into their favourite smoothie, it doesn’t detract from the flavour and it adds a silkiness to the texture which our kids just love.
Other quick tips:
- Spread avocado on toast in the morning instead of butter
- Use avocado instead of mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad, or as a spread on a sandwich
- The soft, creamy texture of an avocado and its mild taste make it a perfect first food for babies.
- Added in salads as it makes the perfect accompaniment
- Use Avocado as a base for raw chocolate pudding
Tips for Selecting and Storing:
For all varieties of avocados, we recommend a simple test for ripeness. Gently apply pressure on the stem to see if it yields. If it does, it’s ready to eat! Avoid squeezing the centre of the fruit as the flesh will easily bruise inside.
We recommend ripening avocados naturally in the fruit bowl. However, to trigger the ripening process, simply place a hard or unripe avocado in a brown paper bag with an Apple or Banana. These fruits naturally release the plant hormone ethylene, which aids ripening. Once an avocado is at its ideal ripeness, store in the fridge for 2-3 days until ready to use.
The nutrients in avocado can oxidise soon after fleshing it, but if you add lemon juice then that shouldn’t happen as quickly.
Avocado allergy is rare, but they may cause allergic reactions in individuals who suffer from latex allergy. They also contain FODMAPs, which may cause digestive symptoms in sensitive individuals.