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Get your diet green with abundant avocados

Pity the poor avocado. It’s often misunderstood.

It’s not the typical fruit that you eat fresh out of hand. Once an avocado is ripe, it goes bad quickly.

And avocados have a reputation of getting smashed, mixed with other ingredients and presto — you have guacamole.

Not that that is a bad thing.

You can serve guacamole as a dip or as a spread for sandwiches or put a dollop of it on grilled chicken or a burger.

But the avocado has many more culinary uses other than making a big bowl of guacamole for last Sunday’s Super Bowl — the day when Americans consume 160 million of them, according to the California Avocado Commission.

Fine Cooking’s February/March issue use s avocados in soup, salads and even a frozen yogurt.

Currently, Hass avocados from Mexico are in abundance and growers in California are shipping theirs out as well.

This time of year, avocados have a rich buttery taste and chances are you will find them at a decent price.

Like many other fruits, avocados have good-for-you qualities.

Nutrition experts have been touting them for years. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat — the kind of fat that helps lower LDL (bad) and helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

Avocados are one of the five MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) in Prevention Magazine’s popular Flat Belly Diet. The diet calls for eating one MUFA at every meal.

Many varieties of avocados are available year-round, with the pebbly-skinned Hass being the most common grocery store variety.

Hass avocados are shipped in from California and Mexico. Some stores also carry the smoother-skinned Fuerte variety from Florida. It is larger but has more water content.

The Fuerte is a favorite of Florine Mark, president and CEO of the Weight Watchers Group in Farmington Hills, Mich., because she gets more avocado and less calories and fat.

“I love avocados and honestly eat them every single day,” Mark said. “They are very good in the good kinds of fats, but higher in calories so I eat in one-eighth increments.”

Mark puts avocados on salads and tops grilled salmon with slices, saying it’s “absolutely delicious.” And she even uses mashed avocado on her face, saying it’s a good moisturizer.

“They are also very pretty to put on my kitchen table mixed with lemons and tomatoes and used as a centerpiece,” Mark said.

When using as a centerpiece, buy hard, unripe avocados and place them in a bowl — they’ll ripen in about four days.

Mark doesn’t make guacamole much because she says you “use too much avocado and then it becomes too fattening for me.”

Instead she mixes onions, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and cooked white or red beans and then adds chunks of avocado at the end.

“This way I get more of the chunky wonderful flavor of the avocado,” Mark said.

It wasn’t until Mark started Weight Watchers in Mexico and lived there for a year that she found her love for avocados.

Mark said “it’s almost as good as eating ice cream.”

“I think once you try it you are going to get hooked on it,” she said.

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