Updated: July 21, 2012 6:02AM
There’s no denying it. Guacamole is as much a part of American cuisine as burgers, pizza and yes, apple pie.
But avocado, the main attraction in guacamole, has so much going for it. Why limit its use to a mere topping for chips?
Avocados are loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including Vitamin C, K, E and B6, folate, potassium and lutein, an antioxidant that may help prevent cataracts. Avocados contain fiber, and they’re sodium-free. What’s more, the fruit —yes, the avocado is a fruit not a vegetable — acts as a nutrition booster, enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from foods that are eaten with it.
Plus, avocados are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, consuming these unsaturated fats in moderation and eaten in place of saturated fats, can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood and risk for heart disease and stroke. And with its smooth, creamy texture and rich, buttery taste, the avocado is literally a natural stand-in for foods high in saturated fats such as butter.
“It’s an extremely healthy swap,” agrees Karen Ansel, registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Ansel enjoys avocado for breakfast. She mashes it up and spreads it on toast or a bagel in place of butter or cream cheese. She also suggests using it to make salad dressings and blending it with orange or pineapple juice and yogurt to create a healthier smoothie.
Chuck White, singer Sheryl Crow’s personal chef, who co-authored the cookbook If It Makes You Healthy along with Crow, makes both a creamy chocolate-avocado mousse and an avocado-cucumber soup.
But the possibilities are endless. Think a BLT sandwich without mayo. Smear on mashed avocado instead. Or make a better-for-you tuna salad. In place of the mayonnaise, combine avocado, lemon juice and a couple of spoonfuls of plain, nonfat yogurt until almost smooth. Then blend the avocado mixture with canned tuna. For that matter, you can do the same with canned chicken or salmon.
You can even bake with avocado instead of butter or oil. The California Avocado Commission’s website, www.avocado.org, offers a yummy-sounding avocado, cranberry and pistachio biscotti recipe while the Hass Avocado web address, www.avocadocentral.com, has a recipe for avocado-red velvet cupcakes.
According to the Hass Avocado site, you can replace up to half the fat that’s called for in any muffin or quick bread recipe with mashed avocado. But when substituting avocado for other fats in recipes, it’s all about “trial and error” says Ansel. It’s best to experiment with a recipe before serving it to company. Also, be aware that your light-colored baked goods may take on a slightly green hue.
While “avocado desserts” may sound like an oxymoron, the ones we tried were unexpectedly delicious. And as the weather turns steamy, non-cook avocado desserts make a lot of sense.
With our easy recipes, you’d never know there was avocado in either luscious treat. So here’s a suggestion, if you’re feeding picky eaters, mum’s the word.
At least until after the compliments start rolling around.
Judy Marcus is a local free-lance writer.