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Avocados are one of the few fruits (yes, technically they're a fruit, not a veggie) that contain healthy unsaturated fats. These fats help lower undesirable LDL cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fat.
The popular Haas avocado, which has dark-green, nubby skin, grows year-round in California. A larger variety with smoother, bright-green skin grows in Florida. Marketed as SlimCado, it contains about half the fat and a third fewer calories than Haas avocados.
Avocados ripen or "soften" after they have been harvested. To speed up the process, place the avocado in a paper bag with an apple or banana for two to three days. The fruit is ready to eat when the stem comes out easily (or, if the stem is gone, when the fruit yields slightly to gentle pressure).
Nutritional info: One serving (about one-third of a medium Haas avocado) provides about 80 calories and nearly 20 different nutrients, many of which are considered heart-healthy, including unsaturated fat, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin E, and potassium.
Easy recipe: Cut a ripe avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork, along with few teaspoons of fresh lime or lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Optional: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro. Spread on toasted whole-grain bread.
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