Avocado (Persea americana)

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     Avocado is considered the most nutritious fruit in the world. Avocado provides more than 25 essential nutrients such as protein, potassium, vitamin E, C, B-vitamins, folic acid, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium. Avocado also provides calories for energy and beneficial phytochemicals such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein (necessary to protect us from the damage of ultraviolet radiation from many sources -computers and environment).

       Some believe that the fat content of avocado is damaging but  the fat in avocado is mostly monounsaturated. What should be avoided or reduced is saturated fat that is present in most dairy and animal products. In fact, avocado helps in the absorption of nutrients that are fat-soluble such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, when food containing these nutrients are eaten with avocado. Avocado is also high in fiber that is good for the digestive system and the heart.

          Overall, avocado is considered a complete food. With vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calories and fiber with no cholesterol and is sodium free. Avocado is ideal for growing up children, adults and even for babies, especially when blended with other fruits. For athletes, avocado is a nutritious energy booster to rev up the body’s strength.

       Avocado (in slices) can be eaten as is or with a dash of salt. It can be  mixed with other fruits, as salad, a shake, baked in breads and even made into a dip. In the Philippines, ripe avocado is often eaten as a snack by scooping from flesh from the skin then mixed with a some sugar and milk or cream.

      A documentation of avocado’s cholesterol lowering effect was studied in in Brisbane, Australia. The researchers reported that eating avocados daily for three weeks improved blood cholesterol in middle-aged women better than a low-fat diet did. The avocado diet reduced total cholesterol by 8 percent compared with 5 percent for the low-fat diet. Another important observation was that it improved the good cholesterol (HDL or high density lipoprotein) by 15 percent. The daily amount of avocado ranged from 1/2 avocado for small women to 1 1/2 for large women. With this study we expect that the myth that avocados can worsen cholesterol can be dispelled. So by eating avocados, heart patients could cut their risk of heart attack 10-20 percent and death rates 4-8 percent in 3-5 years. Don’t hold your cravings for avocados, indulge, it is good for our heart!

Why avocado fat lowers cholesterol?’

      Avocado fat content is the reason to lower cholesterol since it is monounsaturated fat. Another reason is that avocado packs more of the cholesterol-smashing beta-sitosterol (a beneficial plant-based fat) than any other fruit. Beta-sitosterol reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. So the combination of beta-sitosterol and monounsaturated fat makes the avocado an excellent cholesterol buster.

      Beta-Sitosterol has an apparent ability to block the bad LDL cholesterol absorption from the intestine, resulting in lower blood cholesterol levels. The Australian study not only reported that eating either half or a whole avocado fruit per day for a month succeeded in lowering cholesterol levels, but at the same time most people in the study lost weight.

Sid Information on beta-sitosterol
     It is a phytosterol or plant alcohol that is literally in every vegetable we eat. We already eat this every day but we just don’t get enough of it. The typical American is estimated to eat only 200-400 mg a day while vegetarians probably eat about twice this much. This is surely one of the many reasons vegetarians are healthier and live longer.

Actually the term “beta-sitosterol” in commerce refers to the natural combination of beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol and brassicasterol as this is how they are made by nature in plants. There are no magic foods with high levels of phytosterols, but they can be inexpensively extracted from sugar cane pulp, soybeans and pine oil.

RP fruits are best anti-heart disease food

July 6, 2010 9:59 pm

LEGAZPI CITY, July 5 -– Filipinos need not go far in their search for guards that could protect them from heart diseases or stroke that international health authorities listed as today’s leading causes of death for American, European and Asian races.

Right at their backyards and nearby farms are fruits, among them avocado, papaya and watermelon that provide essential nutrients that serve as protection from circulatory diseases, according to health experts.

Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar and are excellent for hearth disorders, according to Ed Bauman, a California-based culinary and nutrition expert.

“They are loaded with fiber amounting to 11 to 17 grams per fruit and are good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health,” Bauman said in an article recently published online by AgribusinessWeek.

Avocado is often said to be the most nutritious fruit in the world as the fruit, nutritionists claim provides more than 25 essential nutrients such as protein, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium, just to name a few.

They said avocado contain goodly amounts of Vitamin C that is necessary for the production of collagen needed for the growth of new cells and tissues, prevents viruses from penetrating cell membranes, and also a powerful anti-oxidant, thiamine that converts carbohydrates to glucose to fuel the brain and nervous system and riboflavin which helps the body to release energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fat.

Avocado also has 60 percent more potassium than banana. Potassium is a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure.

Overall, avocado is considered a complete food. Bauman said it has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calories and fiber, no cholesterol, and is sodium free.

As such, avocado is ideal for growing up children, adults and even for babies, especially when blended with other fruits. For athletes, avocado is a nutritious energy booster to rev up the body’s strength, he said.

In the past, avocado has been considered to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, the Aztecs used the avocado as a sex stimulant and its name for the fruit as ahuacatl, which means “testicle.” Because of this well-entrenched reputation for inducing sexual prowess, avocado was not purchased or consumed by any person wishing to protect their image from slanderous assault.

Although edible by themselves, avocados are commonly used as a base in dips. In areas where the fruit is commonly grown, a common breakfast is avocado on toast. This is made by mashing the avocado with some lemon ‘juice, salt and pepper and spreading on hot freshly toasted bread.

Actually, the avocado fruit is not sweet, but fatty, distinctly yet subtly flavored and of smooth, almost creamy texture. In Brazil and Vietnam, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado.

In the Philippines, ripe avocado is often eaten as a snack by scooping flesh from the skin then mixed with some sugar and milk or cream.

In Australia, avocado is commonly served in sandwiches, often with chicken. In Mexico, avocado is served mixed with white rice, in soups salads or on the side of chicken and meat.

In Peru avocados are consumed with tequenos as mayonnaise, served as a side dish with parillas, used in salads and sandwiches or as a whole dish when filled with tuna, shrimps or chicken.

There are many health benefits that can be obtained when rating avocado. Recent studies have shown that high avocado intake has effect on blood serum cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven day diet rich in avocados, hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17 percent decrease in total serum cholesterol levels.

These subjects also showed a 22 percent decrease in both LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels and 11 percent increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good -cholesterol”) levels.

Researchers have also discovered that avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, .a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. In a review article published in the December 1999 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers pointed out that beta-sitosterol was shown to reduce cholesterol in 16 human studies.

According to a report from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Philippines had a total area of 4,753 hectares planted with avocado from 1990-1997. The Average annual production was estimated at 45,864 tons.

Leading producing regions of the country are the Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas and Southern Tagalog, while the leading producing provinces are Bohol, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Cagayan.

The FAO report said most regions of the country, however, have low productivity since avocado is grown mostly as a backyard tree or as a component of a mixed orchard with little or no- care at all.

“Avocado has a bright potential for development in the country,” says Rachel Sotto in a position paper recently published by FAO. For one, avocado can be grown anywhere in the country.

“This is due to the introduction of several varieties belonging to the three different avocado races, giving the crop a wide range of soil and climatic adaptability,” Sotto said.

For another, she said avocado has a long fruiting season. “In the Philippines, the peak of the fruiting season is from May to September, although some trees in certain localities fruit from January to March.”

Sotto is batting for the growing of avocado in the country because the fruit has a big potential for generating dollar revenues for the country. In the United States, avocado is sold at a very high price. Although listed as a fruit in the Philippines, it is considered a vegetable in the US.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) also reported papaya is rich in antioxidants such as folic acid, fiber, carotenes, vitamin C and E.

These antioxidants, the FNRI said, promote the health of the cardiovascular system and provide protection against colon cancer.

Papaya also contains vitamin A, “a very powerful antioxidant like vitamins C and E,” because of its concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoid phytonutrients, it said.

These nutrients help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, adding that when cholesterol becomes oxidized, it sticks to and builds up in blood vessel walls and forms into dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes, the FNRI explained.

“Folic acid found in papaya is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine, an amino acid. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and if levels get too high, it is considered a significant risk factor to heart attack and strokes,” it added.

FNRI also said that this fruit which is rich in fiber, prevents and eases constipation because the fiber binds cancer toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells.” It also prevents atherosclerosis and diabetes.

On the other hand, the folate and potassium content of papaya is rated “very good.” To have such rating, the nutrient content has to be equivalent to or more than 50 percent of the required daily value.

Papaya’s fiber, vitamins A, E, and K are rated “good.” This means they are equivalent to or more than 25 percent of the required daily value.

However, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that papaya “is a luscious fruit that has been taken for granted.” It further noted that the total crop area in the Philippines planted to papaya amounts to only 8,720 hectares or 0.1 percent of our agricultural land.”

This is frustrating knowing that papaya has so many health benefits, the DA said

June Lay, a lifestyle columnist of HealthNewsDigest.com says: “Many of us think that watermelon is high in calories, contains only sugar and water but this sweet red fruit does pack more than we think.”

“Watermelon is fat-free and is a source of vitamins A, B6, C and thiamine. Studies have shown that a cup and a half of watermelon contains about nine to 13 milligrams of lycopene. On average, watermelon has about 40 percent more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Red, ripe flesh is the best indicator of the sweetest and most nutritious watermelon,” says an article in a US Agricultural Research Magazine.

According to the FNRI lycopene is “a powerful antioxidant that appears to help prevent heart disease.” The phytochemical lycopene is known to be one of the colorful disease-preventing carotenoids.

Meanwhile, vitamin A, the FNRI said, helps maintain of normal vision, keeps skin and hair glossy, and promotes growth.

It added that vitamin C boosts the body’s ability to fight infection and helps keep gums healthy. It is an antioxidant, protecting body cells from damage by free radicals.

“One cup or one slice of watermelon that is about 140 grams gives 140 micrograms of betacarotene and 9.8 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C. This is one percent of the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) of a normal adult,” the FNRI said.

The watermelon is found to be low in calories, according to FNRI, “yet, it gives the feeling of fullness,” saying that “one cup or a slice of watermelon has only 43 kilocalories.”

In the US, watermelon already carries the official heart-check mark of the American Heart Association’s Food Certification Program.

William Watson, executive director of the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), expressed excitement about the watermelon’s meeting the American Heart Association certification requirements.

Samantha Winters, NWPB’s director of communications, said that for a product to become certified by the American Heart Association, it “must be low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.” (PNA) LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd/utb


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