Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rocko vs. The Avocado

A few weeks ago I found myself having a conversation with someone who had yet to experience the joy and wonder of avocados. For the sake of this post, we shall call this person Rocko. I attempted to describe to Rocko the unusual texture and versatility of the creamy, green fruit, but it was kind of like trying to describe the sun to someone who has spent their whole life in a dark hole. 

Me: Avocados are really delicious and wonderful! They have a pretty mild taste, not sweet like most fruits. You can use them to make guacamole, or as a butter substitute in baking-

Rocko: Butter? I thought it was a fruit.

Me: Well, yeah, but it has a high fat content so it's actually really creamy. 

Rocko: Oh, it's a high fat fruit. That's weird. So it's bad for you.

Me: Actually, it's high in monounsaturated fat, which is the good kind of fat that lowers blood cholesterol levels. So they're good for you! 

Rocko: So they have zero calories?

Me: ... Ugh, well no. Half an avocado has about 130 calories, but it's good fat! It's okay!

At this point Rocko looked pretty disgusted at the notion of ingesting 130 calories from just half a piece of fruit. All the reduced blood cholesterol in the world wasn't convincing him to try the avocado. Which is a shame, because what's life without guacamole?

This brief exchange got me thinking about the different kinds of fats. We call them all "fats", which unfortunately often scares people away. Fats make you fat, right? This actually isn't the casemany fats have amazing health benefits and are actually linked to weight control. Plus, fats are delicious. Always. 

I mentioned before that avocados are a source of monounsaturated fat. When it comes to fats, we are either dealing with unsaturated, saturated, or trans fats. I am going to stick with the unsaturated fats for today, for the purpose of keeping this post somewhat short and sweet! 

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are the "good" fats. They are typically derived from plant sources, although fish is also a good source. So why are they "good"? The American Heart Association states that a moderate amount of unsaturated fat helps lower unhealthy blood cholesterol, thus reducing risk of heart disease and stroke (note: not all cholesterol is harmful!) Certain unsaturated fats also provide essential fatty acids which have been linked to healthy neural development and cognitive functioning. 

There are two kinds of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. I shall now use my epic chemistry skills to explain the difference between the two! Monounsaturated fats have one double bond. Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. There ya go.

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are found in things like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, and some nuts. As previously mentioned, MUFAs have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels, which is important for anybody who wants to have a strong, healthy heart. So, everyone?

We also have Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), in all their double-bonded glory! Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are typically the most talked about, since the human body cannot produce these on its own. Avocados boast an excellent blend of both of these essential fatty acids!

There's a lot of research buzzing around omega-3s these days. Essential for the development of the brain and retina, omega-3 has been linked to the prevention/treatment of Alzheimer's, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. You can get your Omega-3s from quite a few foods, including soy, walnuts, flax, canola oil, and certain types of fish. Click here for a more complete list! 

All you need to make guacamole!
So I said I would try to keep this short and sweet. How am I doing? Don't answer that. 

Anyways, back to my conversation with Rocko! Clearly, avocados have a myriad of beneficial nutrients... but Rocko was scared away because of their high caloric content. Sure, avocados pack a formidable caloric punch, but their nutrient density certainly makes it worth it! Plus, their high fat content makes them creamy and satisfying. In terms of satiety, half an avocado will leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied than a sugary granola bar. 

So don't fear the fat! A moderate amount of avocado is both delicious and nutritious. Try adding it to smoothies, sandwiches and salads for added flavour, creaminess, and satiety! Make guacamole and serve with vegetables or whole grain crackers. You can even try replacing the butter or margarine in your baking with an equal amount of avocado - the results will delightfully surprise you! 

Have a favourite avocado recipe? Send it to usit might just earn a primetime spot on the blog! Instant fame and fortune!*

*Maybe...but likely not. Still, it's worth a try so send us your stuff! 


American Heart Association (2014). Polyunsatured Fats. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp

Weisenberger, J. (2014). The Omega Fats. Today's Dietitian, 16(4), 20. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040114p20.shtml.

Heart & Stroke Foundation (2012). Dietary fats, oils, and cholesterol. http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484237/k.D734/Healthy_living__Dietary_fats_oils_and__cholesterol.htm

Bell-Wilson, J. (2009). Eating Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Heart Health. Today's Dietitian, 11(5), 8. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050409p8.shtml. 

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