Loving the BITE: Great Gaucamole
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that cyclists love some good guacamole. Or, maybe it’s just me (but I don’t think so). Either way, this week’s feature ingredient, avocados, pack a nutrition punch and give us a great reason to add guacamole to everything. There’s many great guacamole recipes out there. Here’s one:
Recipe of the week:
- 3 avocados – peeled, pitted, and mashed
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately with vegetables, (kale) chips, on burgers and chicken, or however else you can imagine.
So really, what does an avocado got to offer?
The short list:
- Carotenoids: When I think of carotenoids, I usually think of carrots and other orange or red vegetables. However, avocados are a great source (as is our other green friend, spinach link to http://lovingthebike.com/cycling-nurition/loving-the-bite-green-berry-smoothie). In fact, they contain a spectacular array of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin. And just like spinach, many of these carotenoids directly support eye health. It’s this diverse and vast array of carotenoids that researchers believe is responsible for much of an avocado’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Carotenoid Absorption: Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to otherwise avocado-free vegetables, such as in a salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%. This research result makes perfect sense to us because carotenoids are fat-soluble and would be provided with the fat they need for absorption from the addition of avocado. Avocado oil added to a salad accomplished this same result. Interestingly, both avocado oil and fresh avocado added to salsa increased carotenoid absorption from the salsa as well. Another reason to eat guacamole – avocados and tomatoes equal carotenoid absorption euphoria. I really like guacamole.
- Healthy Fats: Like other sources of healthy fats, avocados have been villianized as “fattening” in recent history (most fat storage issues have to do with an over-consumption of carbs, not fats!). While it’s true that they are 85% fat, the fats provide many health benefits. They are heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, and they promote healthy blood sugars.
- Anti-inflammatory Factors: First, the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats (including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), are key supporters of our inflammatory system that helps keep inflammation under control. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis. Next, avocado’s polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs), which are abundant in ocean plants but fairly unique among land plants, provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits. Third, the high amount of oleic acid (over ½ of the total fat in an avocado) helps our digestive tract form transport molecules for fat that can increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients while decreasing inflammation.
- Fiber: Fiber is one key to overall wellness and discourages most all chronic diseases. One-half cup of avocado provides 3-4 grams of fiber (and only 1 grams of sugar).
- Lower weight and BMI: In broad food intake studies, participants that routinely eat avocados have been determined to be lower in weight and lower in body mass index than non-consumers. Of course, this can be due to a variety of factors (maybe avocado-eater are overall healthier eaters or more active). No matter the reason, let’s eat some guac!
- Cancer prevention: Avocados (specifically avocado extract) have been studied and determined to help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, breast and prostate gland. These results are likely due to the unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Since cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants), it makes perfect sense that avocados reduce risk. But, here is where the avocado story gets especially interesting. In animal and lab studies of healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. But in cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and shift the cancer cells over into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell numbers. In other words, avocado appears to selectively push cancer cells “over the brink” in terms of oxidative stress and increase their likelihood of dying, while at the same time actively supporting the health of non-cancerous cells by increasing their supply antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Wow.
- Glutathione: Remember our friend glutathione – the super antioxidant that healthy cells produce when they’re given the right nutrients (see link http://lovingthebike.com/nutrition-tips/nutrition-tip-february-5-2011). Avocados happen to be a good source of this wonder-nutrient.
- Vitamin E: Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health. Specifically, it is an antioxidant that supports brain, cardiovascular, and respiratory health.
Before you get too excited and cut into that avocado that’s been waiting for you in the fridge, make sure to “peel” it instead of cut it. The method you use to peel an avocado can make a difference to your health. The greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado occurs in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin, so you don’t want to cut it all off. For this reason, the best method is to peel it as much as possible. First, cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next, take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. The final result is a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh so rich in carotenoid antioxidants!
I’m betting that by now you’re racking your brain, trying to figure out how you can possibly eat more avocados. Alright, here’s a bonus recipe:
- 1/3 medium avocado
- 2 Tbsp almonds
- 1 cup berries, any kind
- 1 scoop whey protein
- 1 Tbsp flaxseeds or Chia seeds
- 1 cup Spinach
- Stevia (optional)
Mix all in a blender. Process until smooth.
(And, if you’ve got a great avocado recipe, please share it with us!)
There’s really not much more to say. Eat avocados and you’ll be healthier. And, healthy cyclists are strong cyclists.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.