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By Rose Kaplan, Virtual Intern
Note: This post was inspired by reasonably price avocados showing up in my stores this winter. Some may disagree about eating avocado for heart health. For some people, it might not be a good idea. You have to decide. Jill only eats one avocado a week at most. You always get to choose what you put into your mouth.
Now that January is behind us, it’s the indicator of many things: We are farther into our New Year’s resolutions, we’re closer to spring, and February is the start of American Heart Month. As you begin your journey to better heart health, understanding what foods can help you along this journey will be very useful. Eating a diet that includes heart-healthy fats is just one of many ways to improve heart health. According to the American Heart Association, knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones do not is the first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. Fat intake should be limited to between 25 percent and 35 percent of total calories per day and should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat sources such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. (Editor’s note: I do not encourage the use of vegetable oils, and the guidelines for percentage of calories from fat is much higher than my recommendation, which is more in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent.)
One incredible source of heart-healthy fats is the avocado. Avocados are composed of mostly monounsaturated fats and may help lower blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats. In addition to being high in heart-healthy fats, this fruit confers many health benefits. The best news of all? Avocados are in season during the winter, which makes them perfect for consumption during American Heart Month! Here are just some of the health benefits of the amazing avocado:
- An Avocado Has More Potassium than A Banana — 1 avocado has 975 mg of potassium while a medium to large banana (~8 inches) has only 500 mg of potassium.
- Avocados Are a High Protein Fruit — 1 cup of mashed avocado contains 4.6 grams of protein, one of the highest among fruits.
- Vitamins, Minerals, AND Other Nutrients?! — The avocado contains a myriad of vitamins and minerals in addition to potassium, including Vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B9.
- Avocados Are Good for a Healthy Heart — Avocados can help consumers meet the dietary guidelines of the American Heart Association, which is to eat a diet that is low to moderate in fat, that is primarily unsaturated and low in cholesterol. A 1 ounce serving of avocado contains 0.5 grams of saturated fat and is free of trans-fats and cholesterol, making it an excellent choice.(An average medium sized avocado has ?? ounces of edible flesh.)
- Fat Can Be Good For Me? — Yes, the rumors are true. Fat—in moderation—can actually be part of a balanced diet. According to the American Heart Association, good fats can lower bad cholesterol. The avocado is one of the only fruits that contains monounsaturated fat, with half of its fat content coming from this heart-healthy fat. Avocados also contain polyunsaturated fats, with about 0.5 grams per 1 ounce serving. That is about one fifth of a medium avocado.
The avocado is versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Here are some ideas for the next time you buy an avocado:
- Spread mashed avocado on toast for a heart-healthy, vegan substitute for butter.
- Create a guacamole dip for your next taco night. Guacamole can be easily created with just a few simple ingredients. Combine mashed avocados with jalapeno, diced tomato, red onion, garlic powder (or fresh minced garlic), salt and pepper.
- Use as a garnish on your favorite soup.
- Add to any sandwich to add flavor and creaminess. Now that January is behind us, it’s the indicator of many things: We are farther into our New Year’s resolutions, we’re closer to spring, and of course February is the start of American Heart Month. Avocado can make a great substitute for mayonnaise.
- Combine with mango, black beans, jalapeno and cilantro to make a refreshing salsa.
- Or use it in a tasty dressing or sauce, such as Jill’s Tomatillo Cilantro Avocado Dressing. If you can’t find tomatillos, you can leave them out and add more liquid until the dressing is the consistency that you like. You can also use it as a sauce over vegetables, brown rice or your favorite grains.
Remember to plan in advance. The best avocados are truly ripe, which might take a few days.