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  • All-Star of the Day: Avocados

    It ain’t easy being an avocado. Despite being full of nutrition and health benefits,many people think all they do is make them fat. Allow me to set the record straight.

    Let’s start with some very basic nutritional info for this fruit. Half an avocado provides 160 calories, 14.7 grams of fat, 6.7 grams of fiber, and 487.4 milligrams of potassium.

    To put it into perspective, that’s a banana’s worth of potassium and as much fiber as two slices of whole grain bread.

    Many people get hung up on the fat (when eating a 2,000 calorie diet, the recommendation is that your total fat intake not surpass the 65 gram mark).

    As you will soon read in issue 4 of Small Bites, though, all fat is not created equal.

    The fat in avocados is a tremendously healthy one known as monounsaturated fat – the same one that largely makes up olive oil.

    Avocados even beat olive oil when it comes to their proportion of a specific monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid.

    Oleic acid (sometimes referred to as “omega-9”) has been shown to lower total and bad cholesterol while simultaneously increasing good cholesterol. Even better, it is a great defense against the development of atherosclerosis (the collection of fatty deposits in our artery walls that restrict bloodflow).

    Remember that there are three components that help us feel satiated: fat, fiber, and protein. Avocados are high in fiber and fat, so just half of one (160 calories) included in a meal will satisfy your hunger for quite a while.

    Take something like pretzels — which have no fat, almost no fiber, and very little protein. You could eat 500 calories’ worth and still feel like gnoshing on something.

    Please do not fall prey to the notion that “eating fat makes me fat”. It is entirely untrue. Excess calories lead to weight gain. Because there are 9 calories per gram of fat (as opposed to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate), it is a more concentrated source of calories, but, for example, if you eat copious amounts of rice (a fat-free food), you will most certainly gain weight.

    A study published in the March 2005 issue of Annals of Oncology, a European medical cancer research journal, provided some promising results – oleic acid (abundant in avocados) drastically cut down the levels of a gene that appears to be responsible for the onset of breast cancer.

    There’s more! I recently mentioned that fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can not be properly absorbed by the body unless we accompany them with some kind of fat (hence their name).

    Avocados not only already have vitamins A, E, and K, they are also a tremendous tool to help us absorb nutrients from other foods.

    In fact, a team of researchers at Ohio State decided to study this, and the astonishing results were published in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

    When it came to eating a salad with high amounts of alpha and beta carotene (compounds found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables which our body converts into Vitamin A), people who included avocados in this salad absorbed 8.3 more times alpha carotene and 13.6 times more beta carotene than those who skipped the fat!

    Avocados are also high in lutein, a fat-soluble pigment which helps keep eyes, hearts, and – in men’s case – prostates healthy. Our body does not make lutein, so it is imperative we get it from our diet.

    Avocados, much like bananas, ripen very quickly. If you are planning to prepare a meal with the avocado you buy today, be sure lightly press your thumb against it to test for its softness. Otherwise, go for one that is a little hard and allow it to ripen in your kitchen – at room temperature – for a few days.

    Even kitchen-phobes have no excuse for not enjoying this delicious fruit – all you need is a cutting board and knife.

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    One Comment

    1. greg davis said on August 7th, 2007

      there is a nice article about avocados in this month’s Saveur magazine. i read it on the plane today and it had me wanting to try some of the other 30+ varieties of avocados out there. yum! (we usually only ever see haas avocados in stores)

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