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Friends of Your Taste Buds: Avocado

Appetizing avocado

By Mwangi Wamaina

Salutations again, friends. Last time, we learned about oats, a valuable Illinois grain for human health. Today we travel to the land of California, a land of the Klamath Mountains, ancient redwoods, the Cascade Range and the Peninsular Ranges. In its vastlands reside mule deer, great grey owls, mountain lions, black bears and coyotes. Its tranquil waters host brook trout, California golden trout, Kokanee, the Warner Lakes Redband Trout and many other fish.

In the soil of California, a valuable fruit is grown, which we know as the avocado. Nationally, the U.S. produced more than 200,000 tons of avocadoes in 2020 on over 50,000 acres of land. There are hundreds of types, but they are particularly grouped into three main categories. They also have a rich, ancient past.

Avocado can be found as the name of the 14th month on the Maya calendar, on Pacal tombs in Chiapas and in Aztec paintings. Avocado was also ‘used as tribute,’ given by indigenous people to their rulers or used as money in commercial transactions. Avocadoes were used as animal feed, remedy for bruises and split ends, and even as stamps on fabric. Avocadoes contain important nutrients-iron, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamin E and vitamin B6. The avocado boasts the highest iron content (1.02 mg/100 g) of any fresh fruit. Why is iron important? Iron is a building block of a molecule known as heme. Heme, in turn, is a building block of a crucial substance in the human body known as hemoglobin. Oxygen from the atmosphere is breathed into the lungs, whereas carbon dioxide is breathed out. Hemoglobin serves as an “Uber” for oxygen to be transported from the lungs throughout the body and for carbon dioxide to be delivered from the body tissues to the lungs. If hemoglobin levels are too low, a person could have a medical condition known as iron deficiency anemia. Eating avocadoes and other healthy foods can help prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Regarding shopping, avocadoes can be found in produce sections, ranging from about $1 to $4. They have a shelf life of about three to four days and can last in a fridge for about seven to ten days. While the avocado is ripening, the cover may be green in color. Like many other fruits, avocadoes need to have their cover peeled off in order to access the edible part. When ripe, the cover is black and the edible part, the pulp, is green. The avocado seed, which is brown in color, is inside and should be taken out before eating the pulp.

There are different ways to use avocadoes. They can be stuffed with other foods, can be used to make salads and fruit shakes, can be made into cream or guacamole, or can be used as an alternative to butter.

It’s time to start munching on the appetizing avocado!

Mwangi is an M3 at UICOMR.

mwamai2@uic.edu