26 Things You Didn’t Know About Avocados
By MAGGIE MOON
It’s time to get excited because right now, this superfood will be at its top quality and peak buttery goodness. But maybe you already knew that? After all, avocados are culinary darlings with a well-deserved health halo, and we are a nation obsessed. On average, Americans enjoy a healthy five pounds of avocados a year. Check out these avocado fun facts and find out how much of an avocado lover you really are.
Origins and Evolution
1. Avocados were right at home with giant beasts like mammoths at the beginning of the Cenozoic era (65 million years ago) when large animals would eat avocados whole, travel far distances and leave the large seeds to grow in new places.
2. The original Cenozoic avocado probably had a larger seed and less flesh than modern avocados (their loss).
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3. American avocado trees were first planted in Florida in 1833, and then in California in 1856.
What's in a Name?
4. The Aztec word for avocado (ahuacatl) sounded like the early Spanish word for "lawyer," (currently abogado), so that's what the conquistadors called them.
5. The Aztec word for avocado means "testicle," perhaps because they grow in pairs.
6. For reasons related to the word's Aztec origins, the avocado is also considered an aphrodisiac.
7. Avocados have also at one time or another been known as crocodile pears, good pears and butter pears (however, for some reason, "lawyers' testicles" never took off).
Unique Ways to Enjoy Avocados
8. Did you know you can grill avocados?
9. Avocados can also be blended to make creamy smoothies or soups.
10. Avocado also works great in desserts. Use as a flavoring for ice creams and in quick desserts (e.g., banana-avocado-cocoa pudding).
Favorite Ways to Enjoy Avocados
11. The top-five trending ways people love to eat avocados are: in guacamole, salads, sandwiches, burgers and on toast, according to an annual tracking study conducted on behalf of the California Avocado Commission.
12. Chef Trey Foshee of George's at the Cove in San Diego says, "My favorite way to use California avocados is either smashing or blending them into salsa verde and Mexican raw tomatillo salsas to delicious effect. You just blend tomatillo, jalapeno, cilantro, California avocados, salt and pepper together or dice and toss with olive oil. It's perfection."
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Food and Nutrition Facts
13. You have to peel an avocado to get the most nutrition out of it. That's because the greatest concentration of carotenoids (antioxidants) is in that dark-green part of the flesh closest to the peel according to Katie Ferraro, RD, spokesperson for the California Avocado Commission.
14. Yes, the avocado is a fruit. Avocados (Persea americana) are a fruit and not a vegetable.
15. No, the avocado is not a good source of protein.
16. A serving of avocado is two tablespoons and contains 50 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, 90 percent of which is unsaturated fat.
17. Avocados can be used as a one-for-one replacement for less healthful fats in baked goods and creamy sauces, resulting in calorie and saturated fat savings.
For example, swap two tablespoons of butter (200 calories) for two tablespoons of avocado (50 calories) and save 150 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat and gain nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
NOTE: If you have a latex allergy, you could have symptoms after eating avocados (same goes for bananas and kiwi, among others).
18. California avocados are locally grown, with about 5,000 small family farms throughout central and southern California, where growing conditions are ideal.
19. California grows nearly 200,000 tons of avocados a year, which is 90 percent of the nation's avocados (Florida and Hawaii also grow avocados). And 95 percent of California's avocados are grown in Southern California, near San Diego.
20. California avocados are premium quality, plucked at their peak, traveling from tree to table in just a few days.
21. The Hass variety of avocado is named after postal employee Rudolph Hass, who bought the seedling from a California farmer in 1926.
22. The California avocado season runs from April to September.
How the World Enjoys Avocados
23. In Brazil, Vietnam and Taiwan, a favorite use for avocados is mixed into milkshakes and ice cream.
24. In the Philippines, Jamaica and Indonesia, a sweet dessert drink is made with sugar, milk and ripe avocado.
25. In Central America, it's not uncommon to enjoy avocados mixed with rice.
26. In Chile, avocados are added to hamburgers, hot dogs and celery salads.
Readers -- How many of these did you already know? What facts were surprising? Have another fun fact to add to the list that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Maggie Moon, M.S., RD, is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian. She authored a book on food sensitivities, The Elimination Diet Workbook, and continues to provide nutrition counseling and contribute to healthy-living media as a writer and an expert source. Previously, she led health-and-wellness initiatives for online grocer FreshDirect.com.
Maggie was an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College in New York in both undergraduate and graduate programs. She also developed and implemented nutrition curricula for NYC public schools. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from UC Berkeley and a Master of Science in Nutrition and Education from Columbia University. She completed her clinical training at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital of Columbia and Cornell.
Food Allergy Research & Education. About food allergies: other allergens – latex. Last accessed 5/18/15.
Lu Q., California Hass Avocado: Profiling of Carotenoids, Tocopherol, Fatty Acid, and Fat Content During Maturation and From Different Growing Areas. J Agric Food Chem.2009;57:10408-10413.
USDA Agriculture Marketing Resource Center. Avocados. Last accessed 5/18/15.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Release 27. Last accessed 5/18/15.