A is for Avocado

Avocados are a very healthy fruit. That's right; they're a fruit, not a veggie.

Avocados are rich in antioxidants and a good source of potassium, folate and other B vitamins. Plus they're loaded with fiber.

"They have more fiber than any other fruit, more than berries or apples," said Jamie Kopf, senior editor of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Avocados also have more calories than a lot of other fruit (110 to 180 calories per half) because they have a lot of fat (10 to 15 grams per half).

But Kopf says, it's mainly monounsaturated fat, the kind that's in olive and canola oils. It's the type of fat that doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels.

"All of the fat in avocados is the healthy unsaturated kind," Kopf told me. "Research actually shows that when you substitute the fats in avocado for saturated fat, it actually helps to lower cholesterol levels."

By the way, the darker part of the avocado, just below the peel contains the most carotenoids.

How to shop for avocados

Finding an avocado that's ready to eat can be a challenge. Most of the ones at the supermarket are hard and not yet ripe. Not what you want, if you want to put it in a salad or make guacamole that night. That's why it pays to plan ahead.

"Ideally, you should buy your avocados three to six days before you plan to use them, so they can ripen at home," Kopf said.

To find any ripe ones in the pile, do the squeeze test.

"It should yield slightly to gentle pressure from your fingers," Kopf explained. "If it does yield a little bit when you squeeze it, then it's ripe enough to slice. If you press on the avocado and it leaves a dent that stays there, that means it's too ripe to slice. If the dent is small, it's fine to mash for guacamole."

If you press it and there's a really large dent, it's too ripe. Find another one

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