Saturday, March 27, 2010

A love-post to the avocado

I am devoting this post to a delicious fruit, the avocado. Yes, the avocado is a fruit (technically, a huge berry). Though the avocado has been one of my favorite foods for a long time, it hadn't occurred to me to actually eat it on a relatively frequent basis. But after a brilliant recommendation from a friend, I now buy a few avocados whenever they're on sale. They are delicious, healthy, and fairly easy to eat. Here is a badly-researched bit about this food that I might end up using for my next science/tech article in the paper:

Avocados originate from Mexico. Archeological evidence shows that humans have been consuming them for about 12,000 years! The Aztecs referred to it as the “fertility fruit” (no idea why), and in some Spanish-speaking countries it is called “manzana del invierno,” or “winter apple.”

It is hypothesized that avocados developed through coevolution with now-extinct large mammals (this is referred to as an evolutionary anachronism). Some plants disperse their seeds through endozoochory—basically, animals that eat their fruits then spread the seeds in their feces. Fruits such as avocados or mangos don’t seem to fit this rule—unless you think of a gigantic sloth or humongous elephant, both of which could pass a large seed without a problem. Call me immature, but I find this evolutionary anachronism funny.

The average avocado has:

  • 240 calories, about 75% of which are from fat
  • Sixty-percent more potassium than the average banana
  • 3g of protein
  • 1 g of sugar
  • 13g cholesterol
  • Vitamins A and C
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Monounsaturated fat

(Unfortunately, I don’t have numbers on all of these—I’m just banking on the truth value of the Wikipedia entry :-) )

Avocados have been shown to decrease blood serum cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels, and increase HDL levels. They may also promote skin and hair health (but I wasn’t able to find scientific evidence for this). Some people even use it as a facial mask, which I don’t understand—just eat it! Fresh fruits are way too expensive to waste by smearing on the skin, unless you eat them afterwards (which somehow seems extremely unappealing). It is also sometimes used as a houseplant (!!!).

Hass avocados are the most commonly grown and consumed avocados in the United States (90% of the avocados grown in Southern California, the sort-of avocado capital, are of the Hass variety). They were named for and patented by the man who owned the very first official tree, Rudolph Hass. There are several over varieties, including Gwen, Pinkerton, Reed, Bacon, and others that I won’t go into because the Hass avocado is the only one I know and like.

I hope this was informative...if not, at least spend ~30 seconds looking at pictures of the Gomphothere--I mean, come on, his name is just fun to say!

(Barely reputable) Sources:

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