By Honor Blanco Cabie
(PNA) – It is available anytime of the year, and the fruit – with either green or violet rinds – is popular in vegetarian cuisine as substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads due to their high fat content, according to dietitians.
Called alligator pear, midshipman’s butter or avocado in English, “aguacate palta” or plain “aguacate” in Spanish and “abokado” in practically all corners of the Philippines, the fruit of the tree belongs to the family Lauraceae including camphor, cinnamon and bay laurel.
The tree was introduced into the Philippines in 1890 by the Spaniards through seeds from Mexico. However, it was only from 1902 to 1907 that avocado was introduced successfully into the Philippines by the Americans.
Documents suggest that through the Bureau of Agriculture (now the Bureau of Plant Industry which is under the Department of Agriculture), planting materials were received from Hawaii, Costa Rica and the United States.
In 1913, the Bureau of Agriculture, with the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, started the countrywide spreading of avocado trees. Now, avocados are found growing all over the country, most of which are cultivated in backyards from Batanes to Tawi Tawi..
The name “avocado” is derived from Aztech or Nahuatl word ‘ahuacatl‘, meaning ‘testicle‘ due to the fruit resemblance to the male’s reproductive gland.
The Aztec people were ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries.
The Nahuatl words mean “people from Aztlan,” a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define the Mexican people.
It is used as the base for the Mexican dip known as guacamole, as well as a filling for several kinds of sushi, including California rolls and is popular in chicken dishes and as a spread on toast, served with salt and pepper.
While avocados originated in Mexico and Central America, today, avocados are being planted and harvested in countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, USA, Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, China, Japan, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ethiopia, Spain, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Hawaii.
In some countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Brazil, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. The dessert drink is made with milk, sugar and crushed ice. Chocolate syrup is sometimes added, dietitians say.
But beyond all this, avocados are also considered as one of the healthiest foods in the planet because they contain in excess of 25 essential nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.
Some nutritionists and dietitians say one would need to eat two or three bananas to obtain the potassium content of one avocado, which also contains fiber, protein and beneficial phytochemicals such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein, which help protect against various disease and illness.
They say that while avocado is high in fat content, it is mostly the monounsaturated fat which is a healthy fat variety.
There are at least a dozen health benefits that may be derived from eating avocados, according to dietitians.
One, it can help maintain a healthy heart because an avocado contains vitamin B6 and folic acid, which help regulate homocysteine levels, associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
An avocado also contains vitamin E, Glutathione and monounsaturated fat which help in maintaining a healthy heart.
Two, the fruit can help lower cholesterol levels since it is rich in a compound called beta-sitosterol which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
According to a study, patients with mild hypercholesterolemia who included avocados in their diet for seven days had 17 percent decrease in total blood cholesterol levels, a 22 percent decrease in both LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels, and a 11 percent increase in HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
Three, it can be a good control for high blood pressure since it is a great source of potassium, which helps in controlling blood pressure levels.
Four, the fruit has also anti-Inflammatory properties. Experts say phytonutrient compound found in avocados, such as polyphenols and flavonoids have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, thereby reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders.
Five, it also helps promote good eye health, the fruit being an excellent source of carotenoid lutein, which known to help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Six, the monounsaturated (good) fats in avocados can reverse insulin resistance, which helping to regulate the blood sugar levels. Avocados also contain more soluble fiber, which keep a steady blood sugar levels.
Seven, avocados can help prevent birth defects since, experts say the fruit is rich in folate, a B vitamin commonly known as folic acid. One cup of avocado provides a person about 23 percent of the Daily Value for folate.
The high amount of folate in avocado is essential in the prevention of birth defects, such as neural tube defect and spina bifida, according to the experts.
Eight, the high levels of folate in avocados also protect against stroke. A study has shown individuals who ate a diet rich in folate had a lower risk of stroke than those who do not
Nine, experts point to studies which, according to them, have shown that avocado can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. The oleic acid in avocado is also effective in preventing breast cancer.
Ten, being rich in antioxidants, avocado is beneficial in preventing aging symptoms. The glutathione in avocado may boosts immune systems, slows the aging process, and encourages a healthy nervous system.
Eleven, avocados are one of the best natural mouth wash and bad breath remedies. They are said to be effective in cleansing the intestine which is the cause of coated tongue and this unpleasant condition.
Twelve, experts say it is good for weight gain, noting an avocado fruit has 200 calories for 100 grams.
Typically, fruits has approximately 60-80 calories for 100 grams. Due to the high amounts of calories, avocado is a best diet for people who want to gain weight. Avocado is a healthy source of calories, unlike many other calorie-dense foods that may contain excess saturated fats and sugar.
One does not have to wait for seasons. Throughout the year avocados are available – if not in some upland patch of the farm, in nearby supermarkets in the cities.