The benefits of avocado

Avocados, or alligator pears, are currently very popular, and are fast becoming the king of plants in the world of healthy eating. Like the tomato, it is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable. Avocados tick all the boxes when looking for the right balance of plant, protein and fat in every meal. They are high in monounsaturated fat which is one of the ‘good fats’, essential for cell regeneration and for nutritional absorption. The reason they’ve become so popular, is due to the impressive list of health benefits they give, and to their versatility. Their texture adds a creaminess to soups and smoothies, and the added fat makes salads more fulfilling.

Benefits: Avocados are rich in omega 3s, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K1 and vitamin B6. They help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, aid cardiovascular health, aid brain health, aid eye health, lubricate joints, fight premature skin ageing, are anti-inflammatory, relieve arthritis pain, are an antioxidant, regulate blood sugar levels, aid weight loss by curbing hunger, boost women’s fertility and help protect against cancer.
Best with: Bacon, banana, chicken, chilli, chocolate, coriander, cucumber, eggs, grape, grapefruit, hazelnut, lentils, lime, mango, mint, nutmeg, oily fish, peas, pineapple, soft cheese, strawberry, tomato.

MORNING GREEN SMOOTHIE
Avocados are a great way to start your day with an energy boost. Blend half an avocado, half a cup of almond milk or coconut water, half a ripe banana, handful of spinach, 1 dsp superfood green powder, 1 dsp hemp protein powder and a generous pinch of cinnamon.

GUACAMOLE
Probably the most well known use for avocado, and one that goes with almost every snack, lunch, or dinner. Cut up and mash together 1 avocado, 9 cherry tomatoes, juice of 1 lime, a small handful of coriander leaves, a pinch of cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add a dollop of guacamole to roast vegetables, quinoa and rice dishes, on top of a thick soup or on a big bowl of bean hotpot.

AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
I use this chocolate mousse as a healthy dessert for my kids. Treats can be used as an opportunity to add more nutrition, rather than an excessive overload of refined sugar. Blend together 1 avocado, 1 ripe banana, 2 dsp cacao powder, 1 dsp maple syrup and half tsp vanilla extract. Keeping bananas in the freezer is a great way to throw this mousse together, without having to chill it in the fridge after blending. It’s also just as delicious without the cacao, for a greener creamy dessert.

AVOCADO ON TOAST
To add some essential fat to breakfast, it's as simple as mashing half an avocado onto morning toast. It will keep you full for longer, curb your appetite till lunchtime and regulate your blood sugar levels. It works perfectly on whatever your favourite bread is, but sourdough is definitely the best. The creamy texture compliments the lovely, sour, fermented flavour of the sourdough. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste, and paprika to liven it up even more. For a weekend breakfast add poached or scrambled eggs to your avocado toast.

AVOCADO SALAD DRESSING
Homemade dressings are essential to have in your fridge for throwing together a quick salad. Shop-bought dressings are often full of preservatives and added sweeteners. They were one of the first things to go from my kitchen when I did a clear-out of all hidden sugars. Most dressings are a combination of fat and acid. To make this avocado dressing, blend 1 avocado, a handful of coriander leaves, juice of half a lemon, a drop of honey (optional) and salt and pepper to taste. If you want a more liquid dressing, add some water after you’ve blended all the ingredients, one tablespoon at a time, till you reach your required consistency.

SHAKSHUKA WITH AVOCADO
Shakshuka is a quick and very tasty one-pot dinner, which involves a tomato sauce base, eggs, and, in this version, avocado. Preheat the oven to 180C. Finely chop 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 sweet red pepper. Fry them in an ovenproof frying pan with a splash of olive oil, until the onions have softened. Add 1tsp paprika and 1 tsp cumin. Stir in a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes or 400g tomato passata. Let it bubble away for a few minutes. Cut 2 avocados into halves and remove the skin, make 4 nests in the sauce, and pop the avocados into them. Crack an egg into each avocado, add a grinding of salt and pepper, and bake in the oven for 15-20min until the egg whites are set. Enjoy with a slice of sourdough to mop up your delicious tomato and eggy sauce!

AVOCADO & PEA DIP
I regularly make hummus for dipping veg sticks into; as a quick lunch on oatcakes; or alongside a traybake of roast veg to increase the protein content. Peas are a surprisingly high source of protein. 1 cup gives 8g of protein, which is the same as the ever-popular quinoa, and more than chickpeas at 7g! For the avocado pea dip, blend 1 avocado, 1 cup of defrosted peas, 4 tbsp chopped walnuts,  juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chopped vegetables, add to salads, use as a sauce on the side of a buddha bowl, or in a salad wrap.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru