Many people believe that the avocado is a vegetable, but it is in fact an oily fruit. The avocado gets its name from the Aztec word "ahuacatl" and is sometimes known as the alligator pear. The avocado is often eaten alone with French dressing or lemon juice but can also be chopped into salads and salsa. The soft texture of this fruit makes it ideal to mash for use in dishes like guacamole.
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Avocados are a good source of essential nutrients. They have the highest protein and oil content of any fruit, which makes them a useful food for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet. They also contain vitamins K, C and E as well as B complex vitamins, oleic acid -- which helps to lower blood pressure -- and potassium. Avocados are packed with the dietary fibre which is so vital for intestinal health. One cup of avocado flesh contains almost 30 per cent of the recommended daily adult intake.
The avocado has gained a bad reputation for being high in fat. Although it's true that 85 per cent of the avocado's calories come from fat, these are monounsaturated fats which can help to lower cholesterol levels if used in place of the saturated kind. Avocados contain a number of nutrients like phytosterols and antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects, and are known to be beneficial in conditions such as arthritis. Also, the low sugar content of the avocado make it a healthy, low glycemic index food. Avocados are a rich source of vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting and which some studies suggest is significant in improving bone health, particularly in the elderly.
Mashed avocado has a creamy texture which makes it especially palatable to babies. Iit is free of cholesterol and sodium, while being relatively high in energy-giving calories. As it is eaten uncooked, all the valuable nutrients of the avocado are preserved. If a sweeter flavour is preferred, avocado can be mixed with apple juice or cooked sweet potato.
Given its oily content, it is not surprising that the avocado makes an excellent moisturiser. Avocado flesh can be rubbed directly onto chapped hands or sun-damaged skin. It also makes a good component of face masks for dry skin. A homemade avocado face mask can be made simply by mashing the flesh and applying gently to the face and removing after 15 or 20 minutes. Avocados can also be grown as houseplants. Place the seed in a 4 to 5 inch pot of fertile, porous soil with the pointed end up, barely showing from the surface. If the soil is kept watered and the temperature remains between 15.5 and 21.1 degrees C, the plant will soon develop.
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