The avocado is also known as the alligator pear because of its rough and bumpy exterior. But don't let its skin fool you. If you haven't explored beyond its skin, you might be surprised to know it is a creamy buttery inside that captures the taste buds.
There are dozens of varieties of this tropical fruit. And they vary in weight from eight ounces to as much as three pounds! They have been known to break windows and cause other damage in tropical places where they grow this big. The Haas avocado is the most popular in the United States. It doesn't usually get to the three pound size, thank goodness.
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids as well as potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins and fiber. Most of us think of bananas as a good source of potassium, when in fact the avocado has the potassium content of two to three bananas.
The avocado is high in calories. One half an average sized fruit has about 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 14.7 grams of fat, 8.5 grams of carbohydrate and 6.7 grams of fiber. That's a lot of punch in just one fruit! But don't be afraid of the fat in an avocado. This fat is a healthy fat and should be incorporated generously into a healthy diet. In mineral content a 1/2 an avocado provides a whopping 485 milligrams of potassium, making it an excellent source of this important nutrient.
Avocado is also used as an oil for cooking or for dressing salads. The oils it produces are mostly oleic acid and linoleic acid. Both of these are known to help balance the body's cholesterol levels, and even raise healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels.
You will know when an avocado is ready to eat by gently pressing on its skin. When it's ripe to eat you will notice it gives in a little to the touch. To speed up the ripening process, you can leave it in a brown paper bag for a couple days, or in a fruit bowl with other ripe fruit. You should not refrigerate an avocado until it is ripe. And keeping the pit with the flesh will help keep it longer when stored in the fridge.
Avocados are delicious sliced onto salads or soups. They can be mashed with onions, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, tomato and lemons to make a guacamole. Spread some mashed avocado on a sandwhich as an alternative to mayonnaise.