Could something so rich, creamy and full of fat and calories fit into a diabetes-friendlier meal plan? Yes, indeed! (Be sure to check with your care team if you have any questions about your diabetes meal plan.)
Avocados come in different varieties. Hass avocados, which by some estimates make up 95% of avocado consumption in the US, are smaller and their dark green skin turns black as they ripen. Some other avocado varieties are larger and a brighter green. Avocados provide several vitamins and minerals, some fiber and quite a bit of heart-healthy fats. Plus, they are naturally free of sodium and low in saturated fats and carbohydrates. One-fifth of a medium Hass avocado – about 1 ounce – provides the following:
Total Fat: 4.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
Total Carbohydrate: 3 g
Fiber: 2 g
Most of the fat is the heart-healthier unsaturated type. (Read more about fats and diabetes.)
With 250 calories in a medium Hass avocado, I would recommend keeping the portion small. A typical serving size is one-fifth to one-quarter of a medium avocado. When you swap foods high in saturated fat for a piece of avocado, chances are you may be doing your body some good. Try some of these swaps:
- Spread some mashed avocado on toast instead of cholesterol-rich butter.
- Dip veggies into guacamole instead of dipping chips into a mayonnaise-based onion dip.
- Slip sliced avocado into a sandwich, omitting the cheese.
- Add diced avocado to salads instead of sprinkling grated cheese or bacon crumbles.
- Replace ¼ cup butter with ¼ cup mashed avocado in baked goods and frostings.
- Swirl avocado into your smoothie to up the creaminess factor without using full-fat dairy.
- Spread mashed avocado on flatbread instead of using cream cheese or sour cream.
Tips for selecting and storing avocados
You might find better prices on avocados in Latin markets or after key events such as Cinco de Mayo (May 5), when an estimated 87.3 million pounds are consumed in the US.
You may save more money by minimizing waste. Select a ripe fruit for use within the next day or two. You will know that an avocado is ready for eating when it yields to gentle pressure. If it’s mushy or the skin is dented, leave it behind. It’s overripe and should be tossed out.
Pick firm, unripe fruits for use later in the week. They will ripen at room temperature in about four days. To speed that up, place your unripe avocados in a brown paper bag, which traps the ethylene gas they produce and hastens ripening. Once ripe, use or put in the refrigerator to delay further softening.
Have you cut into an avocado and found it not ready for eating? Don’t throw it away! Instead squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over the cut portion. Put the two halves together, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Check it daily until it has softened.
If you store leftover cut avocados properly, you won’t have to put up with darkened fruit. Just like apples, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables, the cut surfaces of an avocado will oxidize or turn brown when exposed to air. A little citrus juice acts as an antioxidant. That’s why a sprinkling of lemon or lime juice is a good idea.
So is wrapping your avocado tightly with plastic wrap to minimize exposure to air. Press the wrap over a half avocado with the pit still in. Do the same over the entire surface of guacamole or mashed avocado, and add the pit, which helps delay oxidation. (In addition, some cooks suggest lightly spraying remaining avocado or guacamole with vegetable oil.)
Grow your own?
If you’re a real lover of avocados, you may want to pick them from your own tree, though you’ll need to be patient because it can take three to thirteen years to get fruit! Save the pit from your next avocado to start your own houseplant. Avocado trees do best in moderately warm climates with moderate humidity.
Avocados are nutritious and delicious, so enjoy them as part of a balanced, varied diet.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, CHWC, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Diabetes Forecast and Kids Eat Right. She has a private practice in Newport News, VA. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience