When the U.S. lifted its ban on importing avocados from Mexico in the late 1990s, the stage was set for them to take America by storm. In the decades that followed, avocados have been mashed into dips, blended into smoothies, spread onto toast and made into facial masks.
They are famously full of monounsaturated – or “healthy” – fats. “Avocados are the only fruit that contain these healthy fats, which can help reduce the bad cholesterol in your blood,” explains Dr. Yin Cao, an assistant professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. “They also contain niacin, which can bring down high cholesterol. With 350 milligrams of potassium per half an avocado, they can help lower blood pressure. This fruit is decidedly heart healthy.”
It’s no coincidence that they sometimes take the place of meat on sandwiches: Avocados contain up to 2 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving, making them ideal for people who are looking to cut back on animal products. They also contain vitamins C and E, as well as the B vitamin known as riboflavin, which is essential for normal cell growth, says Dr. Cao. “And half of an avocado contains up to 20 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K, which helps support bone health. The folate in avocados can help lower the risk of certain types of cancer.”
There are a few ways to ensure you’re picking out an avocado that is ripe and ready to use. The fruit should be firm but give (gently) when it is squeezed. You can also peel back the stem and check the color underneath: Green means it’s ripe, and brown means it’s overripe. Finally, it’s best to store whole, ripe avocados in the fridge, but be sure to use them within three days.
In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.