The biggest misconceptions about the avocado are that it’s a vegetable (it’s actually a fruit) and that it’s high in fat and therefore unhealthy. The fact is, avocados contain just 5 grams of fat per serving — and of this amount, 3 grams (or 60 percent) are heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Studies have shown monounsaturated fat reduces serum cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fats.

Avocados are also nutrient dense — they’re packed with dietary fiber; vitamins B6, C, and E; folate; and potassium (60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas). Furthermore, avocados are rich in the antioxidant glutathione, which helps fight cancer by preventing the cell damage caused by free radicals. A true super food, avocados are a healthy addition to any diet.

There are many varieties of avocado, but the one you’re probably most familiar with is the Hass (rhymes with “pass”) avocado, which accounts for about 80 percent of U.S. consumption. It’s an oval-shaped fruit with pebbly skin that turns from green to purplish-black when the fruit’s ripe.

At the grocery store or farmers’ market, look for avocados that yield to gentle pressure. (If you don’t plan to use it right away, choose an avocado that’s on the firm side.) Don’t rely on skin color to determine how ripe the fruit is. The Hass will darken as it ripens, but other types, such as Fuerte and Reed, stay green even when ripe. Need to hurry ripening? Simply place a young avocado in a paper bag at room temperature until it’s ready to eat (this takes approximately two to five days). Placing an apple in the bag will encourage the avocado to ripen even quicker because of the ethylene gas the apple, or any mature fruit, emits.

Ready to dig in? Use the following steps when peeling these sometimes-tricky-to-handle fruits, courtesy of the California Avocado Commission:
– Cut the ripe avocado lengthwise around the seed. Twist the halves to separate.
– Remove the seed by sliding a spoon underneath and lifting it out.
– Peel the fruit by placing the cut side down and removing the skin with a knife or your fingers, or scoop out the meat with a spoon.
– Be sure to sprinkle all cut surfaces with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar to prevent discoloration.
– When preparing avocado dishes, think beyond guacamole. Add chunks to omelets, soups, pasta sauces, pizza, and sandwiches.

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Have a healthy and fit day!