Avocados are full of surprises. For instance did you know that an avocado is not only a fruit, but it is a berry? Yep, technically it’s a big berry, but like tomatoes it is used as a vegetable in the kitchen. Whether you’re calling it a fruit or vegetable is beside the point. The real point is avocados are extremely good for you.

Avocados are known for being high in fat. About 85 percent of the avocado’s calories are indeed from fat, but this fruit has fat you want to consume. Avocado oil falls into the category of “good fat” because it is rich in phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) that support the inflammatory system and lower the risk of illnesses caused by inflammation, such as arthritis. Avocado fat is also high in oleic acid, which helps our bodies absorb nutrients like carotenoids. So, you can even get more nutrients out of your other foods by adding avocado. For instance, lycopene and beta-carotene found in many vegetables are absorbed more readily by your body when combined with avocado’s healthy fat, so adding avocado to your salads is an excellent idea. Avocados themselves are rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein among many others.

Avocados boast high levels of vitamin B-6 and folic acid, both of which help support a healthy heart. The beta-sitosterol compound found in avocados helps lower blood cholesterol, and raise good cholesterol. They’re also rich in potassium — in fact they’re a better source of potassium than bananas — which helps control blood pressure. And, the fruit is low in carbohydrates and low in sugar, but high in dietary fibers, which means it's great for regulating blood sugar levels.

We can't forget how great avocados are for our skin. The mono saturated fats help keep skin moisturized, and the omega-9 fats reduce skin redness and irritation. The vitamin E found in it guards against sun damage and the vitamin C helps protect against wrinkles. While a healthy heart is a higher priority, it doesn’t hurt to have healthy, amazing looking skin as well!

When selecting an avocado, make sure there are no cracks or spots where the skin is separated from the flesh. When you press very gently on the avocado, the flesh under the skin should feel firm but with a slight give in softness to indicate the perfect ripeness. If it is completely firm, it is underripe, and if it is noticeably soft, it is overripe. Avocados can be ripened at home by placing them in a paper bag. If you add a banana or an apple to the bag, the fruit will ripen faster thanks to the gasses put out by the other ripening fruits.

avocado chickpea salad

Avocado and Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

These little open-face sandwiches are a perfect snack for kids and adults alike. Whether it is for a quick lunch, an appetizer before dinner, or an after-school snack, this avocado chickpea salad has a mild, satisfying flavor and a great texture. You also have the freedom to top them with all sorts of different ingredients from tomatoes and jalapenos to chopped herbs to a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. Let your creativity take over.

Spicy Mango Avocado Salad

For something a little more bold, you can go for this flavorful salad. Topped with a fantastic cilantro lime dressing, the mango and avocado complement each other perfectly. It is quick to put together yet makes for an exotic blend of flavors. It's perfect for lunches or even a side dish for a fancy dinner party.

Stuffed Avocado Salad

One of my favorite ways to eat an avocado is taking out the pit and filling the well with a rich salad such as curry chicken or classic tuna salad. Another option is to stuff the avocado with avocado salad. And why not? After all the avocado is really the point! This dish uses the avocado flesh along with a hefty dose of citrus dressing, then puts the salad back into the emptied shells to use as a bowl. You could also just make up the salad and serve it in, you know, a real bowl. But the novelty of using the avocado shells for plating is kind of fun.

Orange and Avocado Salad

Another salad option that takes a citrus twist is this quick and easy dish. A mustard vinaigrette dressing coats the mixed greens, grapes, avocado and slices of orange. It's a whole lot of yum in a single bowl, and also boasts extra nutrients from the greens and citrus for a winningly healthful meal.

avocado soup

Avocado Gazpacho Soup

For a refreshing soup on a warm day, go a step beyond just plain old gazpacho and try avocado gazpacho! This chilled soup uses the typical ingredients of a tomato gazpacho but adds in the creaminess of avocado. And let's not forget all that added nutrition too! This is ideal for a hot summer day at the height of tomato season. The flavor is mind-blowing.

Avocado Cucumber Soup

Another take on an avocado soup uses cool cucumber to compliment the creamy avocado. A little zip is brought to the bowl by jalepeño and cilantro, along with lemon and lime juice. It's almost like a delightful salsa that you can just spoon into your mouth without needing any chips!

Corn and Avocado Salsa

But speaking of salsa, you'll want to try out this recipe. Sweet corn and buttery avocado combine for a perfect compliment to fresh corn chips. It's a summer salsa you don't want to pass up, and it's a great addition to the appetizer table next to the guacamole.

chocolate pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Don't forget: avocados are also ideal for desserts! Especially chocolate desserts. This decadent chocolate pudding is just one example. The health benefits from cocoa and avocado make this dessert not only delicious but a nutritional powerhouse. It's probably the best pudding you'll ever taste, and the healthiest. Top it with nuts for even more healthy fats and vitamins. It also pairs well with sliced fruits.

No-Bake Mini Double Chocolate Tortes with Pecan Crust

If you want to impress folks at a dinner party, serve them this at the end of the meal. It's like fudge, right from the freezer. It starts out cold then melts in your mouth, and the fudge-y filling is paired with a sweet pecan crust. A tiny slice is more than enough since this is a wonderfully rich dessert. And none of your guests will detect the health benefits hidden within.

Avocado and Coconut Popsicles

For a lighter summer dessert, try these unique popsicles. Sweet, but less so than your average pop, this dessert is perfect for people who want a mild but satisfying treat. They're perfect for kids too, since they have a lower sugar content than most pops and plenty of healthy fat and nutrients. And since you only need five ingredients to make them, they're an easy treat to make!

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