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— June 15, 2009

Fighting Fat with Fat

By Lisa James
  • The avocado’s buttery texture belies its weight-control benefits.

We’ve come a long way from the days when dieting meant cutting every last bit of fat out of your meals.

People now realize that it is a necessary, and tasty, part of any sensible eating plan and that the key to fat intake lies in the type of fat consumed.

But when it comes to the avocado, even the least fat-phobic dieter may wonder: Can anything with that rich a taste really have a place at a table geared towards weight control?

Happily, the answer is yes. Once called “poor man’s butter,” avocados are actually more like olive oil, both of them being rich in the monounsaturated oleic acid that appears to support healthy cholesterol levels.

Avocados also provide generous amounts of fiber—another bonus for weight-conscious eaters—along with folate, lutein, potassium and vitamins B6, C, E and K. What’s more, avocados have an alkalinizing effect when digested, which helps the body maintain a healthy pH balance.

Native to Central and South America, avocados are now grown in tropical and semitropical climates worldwide, including California and Florida in the US. Harvest times depend on the specific variety, but avocados are available year round.

When shopping for avocados, look for firm specimens without cracks or sunken areas. Keep them on the kitchen counter until they ripen to a slightly soft consistency. Peel an avocado by cutting it lengthwise from top to bottom and gently twisting the halves apart. Then remove the large center pit and slip off the skin. Cut out any dark spots in the flesh.

Avocados are best known as the main component in guacamole, in which they are mashed with chopped tomato, lime or lemon juice (to prevent browning) and salt. Other ingredients may include onions, garlic, chilies, cumin and cilantro. Mashed avocado can also be used to garnish baked potatoes or steamed vegetables, or as an unusual sandwich spread. Diced avocado makes an unusual omelet addition.

Sliced avocado is popular as a salad ingredient. But you can stuff the slices into rolled chicken breasts or wrap them with shrimp and basil leaves in prosciutto for grilling. You can even honor the avocado’s role as a fruit (its technical designation) by using it in desserts, such as in the recipe shown below.

If you’re looking to lose weight, feel free to make the avocado—and its healthy fat content—a welcome part of your diet.

California Avocado and Mango 
with Yogurt, Honey & Lime

2 large ripe California avocados,
chilled, halved, seeded and peeled
2 mangoes, chilled, halved, seeded and peeled
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
3/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt (Greek style preferred)
2 large limes, juiced
3 tbsp honey
4 mint sprigs

1. Slice avocado and mango halves lengthwise into 1/2” slices. Arrange on four salad plates, alternating avocado and mango. Mix the pepper and salt, and lightly sprinkle over the slices.

2. Whisk together yogurt, lime juice and honey in a small bowl; drizzle 2-3 tbsp of dressing over each plate. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 269 calories, 5.5g protein, 12g fat (1.7g saturated), 5.3g fiber, 43g carbohydrate, 168 mg sodium


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