Avocado pear, also known as alligator pear or butter fruit, is a type of berry that grows in warm climates. It has a creamy texture and a rich flavor that makes it a versatile ingredient for many dishes. But did you know that avocado pear is also a superfood that offers numerous health benefits? In this article, we will explore some of the amazing benefits of avocado pear and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
What is avocado pear?
Avocado pear is the fruit of the Persea americana tree, which belongs to the laurel family. The name “avocado” comes from the Nahuatl word “ahuacatl”, which means “testicle”. This is because the fruit resembles the shape and size of a testicle. The term “pear” refers to the shape of some varieties of avocado, which are more elongated than round.
Avocado pear has a green or purple skin that can be smooth or rough, depending on the variety. The flesh is yellow-green and has a buttery consistency. The fruit contains a large seed in the center, which is not edible. The seed can be used to grow new avocado plants, or for other purposes, such as making jewelry or natural dye.
Avocado pear is native to Central and South America and Mexico, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is believed to have reached Jamaica in the early 16th century, and later spread to other parts of the world. Today, avocado pear is grown in many tropical and subtropical regions, such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Spain, Israel, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, and the United States.
What are the nutritional facts of avocado pear?
Avocado pear is a nutrient-dense fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one serving (one-fifth of an avocado, approximately 40 grams) contains:
- 64 calories
- 5.9 grams of fat (4.3 grams of MUFA, 0.7 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 0.9 grams of saturated fatty acids)
- 3.4 grams of carbohydrates
- 2.6 grams of fiber
- 0.3 grams of sugar
- 0.8 grams of protein
- 6% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C
- 6% of the DV of vitamin E
- 10% of the DV of vitamin K
- 6% of the DV of vitamin B6
- 4% of the DV of riboflavin
- 4% of the DV of niacin
- 6% of the DV of folate
- 6% of the DV of pantothenic acid
- 4% of the DV of magnesium
- 6% of the DV of potassium
- 2% of the DV of iron
- 2% of the DV of zinc
- 2% of the DV of copper
- 2% of the DV of manganese
In addition, avocado pear contains phytochemicals, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and beta-sitosterol, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
What are the health benefits of avocado pear?
Avocado pear has been associated with various health benefits, such as:
- Improving heart health: Avocado pear may help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and inflammation, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This is because avocado pear contains MUFA, which can improve the ratio of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Avocado pear also contains potassium, which can regulate blood pressure and prevent fluid retention. Moreover, avocado pear contains beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that can block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. A 2023 study found that more than one weekly serving of avocado was associated with a decreased risk of colorectal, lung, and bladder cancer. However, researchers did not observe associations between avocado consumption and the risk of total cancer or other site-specific cancers1.
- Enhancing vision: Avocado pear may protect the eyes from damage caused by ultraviolet light, blue light, and oxidative stress. This is because avocado pear contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are concentrated in the macula, the central part of the retina. These carotenoids can filter harmful light rays and scavenge free radicals that can damage the eye cells. Avocado pear also contains vitamin E, which can prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Furthermore, avocado pear contains MUFA, which can enhance the absorption of other fat-soluble antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, that can benefit the eyes.
- Supporting bone health: Avocado pear may prevent osteoporosis and fractures by increasing calcium absorption and reducing calcium excretion. This is because avocado pear contains vitamin K, which is essential for the activation of osteocalcin, a protein that binds calcium to the bone matrix. Avocado pear also contains magnesium, which is involved in bone formation and mineralization. Additionally, avocado pear contains vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen, a major component of bone tissue.
- Promoting digestion: Avocado pear may improve digestive health by increasing the intake of dietary fiber and water, which can prevent constipation and lower the risk of diverticular disease. Avocado pear also contains prebiotics, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria can produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, that can nourish the intestinal cells and modulate the immune system. Avocado pear also contains polyphenols, which are plant compounds that can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori, that can cause ulcers and gastritis.
- Boosting mood: Avocado pear may help reduce the risk of depression and improve cognitive function by providing essential nutrients for the brain. Avocado pear contains folate, which is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, that regulate mood and behavior. Avocado pear also contains vitamin B6, which is required for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, a hormone that induces relaxation and happiness. Moreover, avocado pear contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can modulate the activity of brain cells and reduce inflammation in the central nervous system.
- Protecting against cancer: Avocado pear may have anti-cancer effects by modulating the expression of genes, the activity of enzymes, and the signaling of pathways that are involved in cell growth, differentiation, and death. Avocado pear contains phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and glucosinolates, that can scavenge free radicals, induce detoxification, regulate the cell cycle, and trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Avocado pear also contains vitamin E, which can inhibit the proliferation and invasion of cancer cells. A 2023 study discovered that more than one weekly serving of avocado was associated with a decreased risk of colorectal, lung, and bladder cancer. However, researchers did not observe associations between avocado consumption and the risk of total cancer or other site-specific cancers1.
How to eat avocado pear?
Avocado pear can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on your preference and the recipe. To eat it raw, you need to cut the fruit in half, remove the seed, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You can also peel the skin and slice the flesh into pieces. You can enjoy avocado pear as it is, or sprinkle some salt, lemon juice, or honey for extra flavor. You can also mash the flesh and spread it on toast, crackers, or sandwiches, or use it as a dip for chips, vegetables, or breadsticks.
To cook avocado pear, you can bake, grill, or fry it, depending on the dish. You can also blend the flesh and use it as a base for smoothies, soups, sauces, or desserts. Some of the popular dishes that use avocado pear are:
- Guacamole: A Mexican dip made from mashed avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. It can be served with tortilla chips, tacos, burritos, or salads.
- Avocado toast: A simple breakfast or snack made from toasted bread topped with mashed or sliced avocado, and optionally seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice, or other ingredients, such as eggs, cheese, bacon, or salmon.
- Avocado salad: A refreshing salad made from avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and dressing of your choice. You can also add other ingredients, such as chicken, shrimp, cheese, or nuts, for more protein and flavor.
- Avocado smoothie: A creamy and nutritious smoothie made from blended avocado, milk, yogurt, honey, and ice. You can also add other fruits, such as banana, mango, or berries, for more sweetness and vitamins.
- Avocado chocolate mousse: A decadent and vegan dessert made from blended avocado, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. You can also add some whipped cream, nuts, or chocolate chips for more texture and indulgence.
What are the risks of eating avocado pear?
Avocado pear is generally safe and healthy to eat, but some people may experience some adverse effects, such as:
- Allergy: Some people may be allergic to avocado or its components, such as latex, which can cause symptoms such as itching, swelling, hives, rash, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis. If you have a history of latex allergy, you may want to avoid avocado or consult your doctor before eating it.
- Weight gain: Avocado is high in calories and fat, which can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. Although the fat in avocado is mostly healthy, it still counts towards your daily calorie intake and can lead to obesity if not balanced with other foods and physical activity. Therefore, you should eat avocado in moderation and watch your portion size.
- Drug interactions: Avocado may interact with some medications, such as warfarin, a blood thinner that prevents blood clots. Avocado contains vitamin K, which can counteract the effect of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you are taking warfarin or other blood thinners, you should limit your intake of avocado and monitor your blood levels regularly.
- Digestive issues: Avocado may cause some digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or nausea, especially if you are not used to eating it or if you eat too much of it. This is because avocado contains a lot of fiber and fat, which can be hard to digest for some people. To prevent or reduce these symptoms, you should eat avocado slowly, chew it well, and drink plenty of water.
Q: How to choose a ripe avocado?
A: A ripe avocado should have a slightly soft texture, but not mushy. You can test the ripeness by gently pressing the skin with your thumb. If it yields to your pressure, it is ready to eat. You can also check the color of the skin and the stem. A ripe avocado should have a dark green or purple skin, and a brown stem. If the skin is bright green or the stem is green, the avocado is not ripe yet. You can ripen it at home by placing it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple, which will release ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process.
Q: How to store avocado?
A: If you have an unripe avocado, you can store it at room temperature until it ripens. If you have a ripe avocado, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you have a cut avocado, you can store it in an airtight container with some lemon juice or vinegar to prevent browning. You can also freeze the avocado by pureeing it with some lemon juice or vinegar and storing it in a freezer bag or container.
Q: How to eat avocado seeds?
A: Avocado seeds are not edible, and they can be harmful if swallowed or chewed. They contain a substance called persin, which can be toxic to humans and animals. They also have a bitter taste and a hard texture, which can damage your teeth and digestive system. Therefore, you should discard the avocado seeds and not eat them.