Pass the guacamole: July 31 is National Avocado Day, a good time to celebrate the traits of another delicious, nutrient-packed food and Florida crop, say University of Florida experts.
While some people simply love the taste of guacamole, others also value the healthy traits of the fruit with which it’s made, the avocado.
“Most notably, they are a good source of healthful (monounsaturated) fat and potassium,” said Linda Bobroff, a professor and Extension nutrition specialist at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. She says that potassium is a “nutrient of concern” in the U.S. because many people do not get enough of this critical electrolyte in their diets. In fact, when new food labels (Nutrition Facts) are more widely used in a couple of years, potassium is a nutrient that must be listed, she said.
Avocados also contain dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A precursors, also known as carotenoids, Bobroff said.
“Mashed avocado makes a great first…or second…or third food for infants,” she said. “It sure worked well for my two granddaughters!”
Bobroff also gives a hint for guacamole lovers: Never mash avocado to make the dip. Instead, cut it into small pieces with two knives because that makes for much tastier guacamole.
Guacamole is made from avocados, plus spices added for flavors, said Anne Mathews, a registered dietitian and a UF/IFAS associate professor of food science and human nutrition. Most recipes call for adding fresh minced garlic, lime juice, and chopped tomato. In fact, “there is a broad array of guacamole recipes with all sorts of cultural and ethnic twists,” Mathews said.
“I think guacamole is popular because of the healthfulness of avocados and the variety of flavors you can create by changing spices,” she said.
According to a UF/IFAS Extension document, here are a few ways you can enjoy avocados that you might not have already considered:
- You can add them to a sandwich. Mathews agrees, saying avocados are better for you than mayonnaise.
- Avocado slices, cubes or balls make great additions to salads.
- Avocado halves make great containers for appetizers, lunch, or light dinners. You can put seafood salad, curried chicken, or fresh fruit salad in them.
“Sauce them, blend them, chill them or freeze them; avocados are a versatile ingredient that can be used to create a variety of delicious dishes,” said Nan Jensen, a family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County. “Many of us associate avocados with guacamole but they can be used to make so much more.”
Second only to California in avocado production, Florida gets more than 95 percent of its avocados from Miami-Dade County, according to UF/IFAS research. Avocados provide a $100 million-a-year impact on Florida’s economy. If you’re new to avocados and you want to buy them in the grocery store, the Florida-grown fruits are larger and have smoother skin than those that come from California.
Here are some more agricultural facts about avocados, courtesy of Jeff Wasielewski, horticultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County:
- They’re the fourth largest fruit crop in Florida after citrus, strawberries, and blueberries.
- They account for about 60 percent of the tropical fruit industry in Florida.
- They account for about 70 percent of the green-skin avocados consumed in the U.S.
- There were an estimated 7,500 acres of avocados in 2012, and Florida has 6,700 acres in 2018.
- The average farm size is 10 acres.