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Fruit for the heart and health

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 13/8/2019 Meera Murugesan
a hand holding a fruit: Humans have been eating avocados for thousands of years. Picture:Designed by Freepik. © Provided by Media Prima Humans have been eating avocados for thousands of years. Picture:Designed by Freepik.

Add an avocado to your diet to reap multiple benefits writes Meera Murugesan

APPEARANCES can be deceptive, even in the world of fruit.

Take the avocado for example. It certainly doesn’t have the glorious stand-out look of the pineapple or the eye-catching, pretty in pink shade of the dragon fruit.

If we were to go solely by appearance, the humble avocado, with its plain green skin and ordinary oval shape would pale in comparison to other more exotic options out there.

But when it comes to nutrition, this fruit will always slice every other contender in your fruit basket.

Humans have been consuming this superfruit for thousands of years. Historical findings show evidence of avocado consumption in central Mexico that goes back almost 10,000 years and the fruit began to be cultivated around 5000 years ago by ancient tribes such as the Incas and Mayans. Spanish explorers are believed to be the first Europeans to consume the fruit.

Nutritionist Alexandra Prabaharan says once a delicacy, avocado can now be found almost everywhere and the fruit is the ultimate heart healthy, cholesterol free powerhouse.

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not a one off commitment but a long term goal and understanding how your body works and choosing the right foods can help you lead a healthier life,” says Alexandra speaking during the Taste Australia Avocado launch at Jaya Grocer starling Mall.

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DIETARY BENEFITS

Avocados contain a helpful collection of nutrients and phytochemicals that are important for heart health she explains and they’re also high in monounsaturated fat which is good fat and soluble fibre which helps improve our lipid profiles.

As a result, avocados play a role in our diet to ensure heart health and keep weight balanced.

A healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, such as avocado, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to good heart health.

Alexandra adds that half an avocado per day is a good amount to ensure you're having a healthy diet.

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“Diets high in monounsaturated fats from plant sources are associated with less weight gain over time, a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and promote good skin as well,” she says.

Avocados also provide 11 per cent of daily value of dietary fibre and while most fruits contain five grams or more of sugar per serving, avocados contain less than one gram per serving.

Diets high in avocado therefore ensure a lower chance for obesity and even aid in weight loss.

“Healthy fat keeps you full for longer and also helps burn belly fat. A diet rich in avocados will aid in weight loss management.”

Alexandra adds that the fruit is also ideal for those who are dairy intolerant because they can still get creaminess and richness from avocado without dairy.

More importantly, avocados can boost our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from other healthy foods. For example, adding an avocado to a salad, increases your ability to absorb key nutrients in other fresh vegetables such as lycopene from red tomatoes and beta carotene from orange carrots.

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And if you are pregnant, avocados top the list as the fruit that is not only good for you but your baby as well stresses Alexandra.

It is not only nutrient rich for the expectant mother but also provides nutrients for the baby’s development.

“It's high in folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 which helps baby's tissue and brain growth as well as eases morning sickness.”

The fruit is also ideal as baby’s first food. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals but the healthy fat makes it a satisfying bite which will keep baby full. The soft creaminess and light flavour also makes it easy for their palate.

The versatility of the fruit also allows any sort of flavour additions adds Marc Francois, fresh distribution centre head for Jaya Grocer.

“Whether you are making a dip, salad, pasta, sandwich, smoothie or dessert, avocados are a fantastic ingredient to bring that creamy texture and a bundle of health benefits to every dish,” he says.

The Taste Australia campaign will be in action at participating retailers including Jaya Grocer, Village Grocer and Aeon supermarkets.

meera@mediaprima,com.my

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AVOCADO VARIETIES

THE two main varieties of avocados grown in Australia are the Hass and Shepard. Hass is in season from May through to January and Shepard from February to May.

The Hass has the classic oval shape and changes colour as it ripens, going from green to purple black. It also has a creamy texture and taste.

The Shepard is longer and more elongated in shape with a smooth, glossy, green skin. It always stays green even when ripe and has a nutty and buttery texture. The flesh doesn’t turn brown when cut.

RIPE TEST

THE Hass avocado is the most common variety grown in Australia.

Here’s how to choose the perfect Hass.

If it is:

*Hard and olive green - ready in 2-3 days.

*Firm and green/black - ready in 1-2 days.

*Soft and purple/black - ready to eat.

*Gently press near the stem of the fruit to feel for some “give”. The more give, the riper the fruit.

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STORE IT RIGHT

*Keep your avocado at room temperature in a fruit bowl until it reaches the preferred ripeness for eating.

*To speed up the avocado ripening process, place unripe avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana for two to three days until they are ripe.It’s the plant hormone ethylene, which occurs naturally in fruits like apples and bananas, that triggers the ripening process.

*When the avocado is ripe, place it in the fridge to stop the ripening process. Refrigerating a whole, ripe avocado will maintain the optimum ripeness for two to three days until you are ready to use it.

*Sprinkle cut avocado with lemon juice or vinegar to stop it browning once cut. Seal with cling wrap, remove any air and store in the fridge.

THE WONDER FRUIT

Avocados:

*Contain monounsaturated fats.

*Help absorb fat soluble nutrients.

*Promote healthy skin.

*Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

*Help manage body weight and are good for your waistline.

*Maintain heart health.

THE NUTRIENT POWERHOUSE

A quarter of an avocado - just 50g contains:

Healthy fats

Dietary fibre

Folate, niacin and pantothenic acid

Vitamins C, B5, E and K

Potassium

Anti-oxidants

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HEALTHY START

AVOCADOS are good for pregnant mothers and babies because they are a source of folate which helps support a healthy pregnancy. It also provides vitamins to fight tiredness and healthy fats to boost the nutrient absorption from other foods.

The vitamins and minerals found in a single serving of avocado assists with infant growth and development, brain function, muscles and nerves, bones and teeth, vision, skin and hair. It also promotes a healthy gut, immunity, and absorption of iron.

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Sources:Taste Australia and Australian Avocados - www.australianavocados.com.au

AVOLICIOUS

HERE are some simple yet nutritious dishes using avocado by Alexandra Prabaharan

Avocado Devilled Eggs

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Serves 6. Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado

6 eggs, hardboiled

2 tsp mustard

1 squeeze of lime

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 pinch paprika

Cilantro

Method

1.Cut eggs into half and spoon out the yolks. Mash the yolks with avocado, mustard, lime juice, cayenne and paprika.

2.Pipe this mixture back into the hollowed out eggs and sprinkle with cilantro.

Malaysian Avocado Smoothie

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Serves 2. Cooking time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 avocado

1 tbsp gula Melaka, heated with a bruised pandan leaf

3/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup coconut cream

Method

Blend everything till smooth and creamy. Enjoy cold.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Serves 2. Prep time: 5 minutes. Setting time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 avocado

1 banana, brown and ripe

1/4 cup coconut milk

1-3 tbsp honey (for sweetness but can be less if banana is ripe)

2-3 tbsp cocoa powder

Assorted berries for topping

Method

Put all ingredients into a food processor or into a bowl with a hand-held immersion blender and blend till smooth. Pour into a serving dish and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set and top with berries.

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© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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