Tossing Avocados And Almonds

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - January 04, 2006
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Elisa Maikui, a customer service representative for Verizon Wireless at Windward Mall, enjoys meeting new people. She credits her managers, Renee Kamemoto and Kelly Mashiba, for helping her to excel in her job.

Elisa was born in Killeen, Texas, and has lived here for 19 years. She and her husband, Ivan, live in Kailua, and enjoy spending time with family and friends. When she is not working, her favorite pastimes are going to the beach, movies and shopping. This column is dedicated to the Maikui family.

Time for those New Year’s resolutions! If you are like most folks, one of those will be to eat healthier and pare down your waist size, so here’s a nice light salad to get the new year off to a good start.

The avocado comes from the Aztec word abuacalt, and later the Spanish word agucate, which is still spoken now. The avocado is a pear-shaped fruit from a tree that is native to Central and South America. The avocado tree thrives in tropical and subtropical climates and can reach up to 65 feet in height. It has oval shaped and waxy evergreen leaves. Avocados come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. The most common variety, the Hass avocado, is oval and has a tough black or dark brown shiny skin when the fruit is ripe. Other varieties have a green, glossy skin. You should not try to eat the skin of any variety of avocados. Avocados can vary in weight from 8 ounces to over 2 pounds. All varieties have a rich, buttery textured flesh and a slightly nutty taste. The flesh is usually yellowish green in color.

When purchasing, select ones that are heavy for their size, not too hard, and free of black spots and bruises. The avocado is usually cut in half lengthwise and the pit removed. Avocado flesh darkens when exposed to air; to prevent discoloration, sprinkle with lemon juice or vinegar.

Avocados are often served by themselves, cut in half, with different toppings, and are frequently served raw since they don’t hold up well to extended cooking. They also go quite well with sandwiches and salads, and can be added to hot or cold soups. They are particularly delicious stuffed with seafood or chicken. Guacamole, one of the most popular dishes in Mexico, is made by pureeing avocados with chilies, onions, spices and lime juice, and is usually served with tortillas.

Nutritionally, avocados are an excellent source of potassium and folic acid, as well as a good source of vitamin B6. They also contain lesser amounts of vitamins A and C, niacin, magnesium, pantothenic acid, copper and zinc.

Despite its high fat content (a typical medium size avocado has 15 grams of fat, 7.4 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber, and 161 calories), it is easy to digest because it contains a number of enzymes that facilitate the breakdown of fats.

The avocado is a very nutritious and energizing food and is said to be good for the stomach and the intestines.

Once you buy them, avocados can be left to ripen at room temperature. To speed up the ripening process, you can place them in a paper bag. Once refrigerated, avocados will no longer continue to ripen. Whole ripe avocados will keep for two to three days in the refrigerator, while cut avocados will only keep for a day or two. One final tip: Frozen pureed avocado to which lemon juice has been added will actually keep for about a year!


* 4 large leaves red leaf lettuce
* 2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
* 1 large ripe avocado, peel, seed and slice thinly
* 1 can mandarin orange slices, drained well
* 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
* fat-free raspberry vinaigrette or dressing of choice
* 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Arrange large lettuce leaves on four plates. Divide chopped lettuce into four portions and arrange on top of leaves. Arrange avocado slices evenly around the lettuce. Top with mandarin oranges and garnish with strawberry slices. Pour vinaigrette over salads and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Makes four servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 185 Fat: 9 grams Saturated fat: 1 gram Sodium: 20 milligrams (will vary according to dressing selected)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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