The avocado (Persea americana) is a tree, long thought to have originated in South Central Mexico,classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. The fruit of the plant, also called an avocado (or avocado pear or alligator pear), is botanically a large berry containing a single large seed known as a “pit” or a “stone”.
Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world.They have a green-skinned, fleshy body that may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. Commercially, they ripen after harvesting. Avocado trees are partially self-pollinating and are often propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.
In other Central American and Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries, it is known by the Mexican name, while South American Spanish-speaking countries use a Quechua-derived word, palta. In Portuguese, it is abacate. The fruit is sometimes called an avocado pear or alligator pear (due to its shape and the rough green skin of some cultivars). The Nahuatl ahuacatl can be compounded with other words, as in ahuacamolli, meaning avocado soup or sauce, from which the Spanish word guacamole derives.
In the United Kingdom, the term “avocado pear” is still sometimes misused as applied when avocados first became commonly available in the 1960s.
Originating as a diminutive in Australian English, a clipped form, “avo”, has since become a common colloquialism in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
It is known as “butter fruit” in parts of India and goes by the name “bơ” [ɓɘː] in Vietnamese, which is the same word that is used for butter. In eastern China, it is known as è lí (“alligator pear”) or niú yóu guǒ (“butter fruit”). In Taiwan, it is known as luò lí or “cheese pear”.
Persea americana, or the avocado, possibly originated in the Tehuacan Valley in the state of Puebla, Mexico, although fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago. However, there is evidence for three possible separate domestications of the avocado, resulting in the currently recognized Mexican (aoacatl), Guatemalan (quilaoacatl), and West Indian (tlacacolaocatl) landraces.The Mexican and Guatemalan landraces originated in the highlands of those countries, while the West Indian landrace is a lowland variety that ranges from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador to Peru, achieving a wide range through human agency before the arrival of the Europeans. The three separate landraces were most likely to have already intermingled in pre-Columbian America and were described in the Florentine Codex.
The earliest residents were living in temporary camps in an ancient wetland eating avocados, chilies, mollusks, sharks, birds, and sea lions. The oldest discovery of an avocado pit comes from Coxcatlan Cave, dating from around 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. Other caves in the Tehuacan Valley from around the same time period also show early evidence for the presence of avocado. There is evidence for avocado use at Norte Chico civilization sites in Peru by at least 3,200 years ago and at Caballo Muerto in Peru from around 3,800 to 4,500 years ago.
The native, undomesticated variety is known as a criollo, and is small, with dark black skin, and contains a large seed. It probably coevolved with extinct megafauna. The avocado tree also has a long history of cultivation in Central and South America, likely beginning as early as 5,000 BC. A water jar shaped like an avocado, dating to AD 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan.
The earliest known written account of the avocado in Europe is that of Martín Fernández de Enciso (circa 1470–1528) in 1519 in his book, Suma De Geographia Que Trata De Todas Las Partidas Y Provincias Del Mundo. The first detailed account that unequivocally describes the avocado was given by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in his work Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias (es) in 1526.The first written record in English of the use of the word ‘avocado’ was by Hans Sloane, who coined the term in 1669, in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants. The plant was introduced to Spain in 1601, Indonesia around 1750, Mauritius in 1780, Brazil in 1809, the United States mainland in 1825, South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century, and Israel in 1908. In the United States, the avocado was introduced to Florida and Hawaii in 1833 and in California in 1856.
Before 1915, the avocado was commonly referred to in California as ahuacate and in Florida as alligator pear. In 1915, the California Avocado Association introduced the then-innovative term avocado to refer to the plant.
12 Amazing Benefits
Avocados are nutrient rich
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one serving (one-fifth of an avocado, approximately 40 grams) contains:
almost 6 grams of fat
3.4 grams of carbohydrate
less than a gram of sugar
almost 3 grams of fiber
Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Although most of the calories in an avocado come from fat, don’t shy away! Avocados are full of healthy, beneficial fats that help to keep you full and satiated. When you consume fat, your brain receives a signal to turn off your appetite. Eating fat slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, which helps to keep sugar levels in the blood stable.
Fat is essential for every single cell in the body. Eating healthy fats supports skin health, enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and may even help boost the immune system.
Healthy for the heart
Avocados contain 25 milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Regular consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols has been seen to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Great for vision
Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that are especially concentrated in the tissues in the eyes where they provide antioxidant protection to help minimize damage, including from ultraviolet light.
As the monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados also support the absorption of other beneficial fat-soluble antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, adding avocados to your diet may help to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Half of an avocado provides approximately 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K.
This nutrient is often overlooked, but is essential for bone health.
Vitamin K is often overshadowed by calcium and vitamin D when thinking of nutrients important for maintaining healthy bones, however, eating a diet with adequate vitamin K can support bone health by increasing calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.
Adequate intake of folate from food has shown promise in protecting against colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers.
Although the mechanism behind this apparent reduction in risk is currently unknown, researchers believe that folate protects against undesirable mutations in DNA and RNA during cell division.
Avocados may even have a role to play in cancer treatment, with some research finding that phytochemicals extracted from avocado can selectively inhibit the growth of precancerous and cancerous cells and cause the death of cancer cells, while encouraging the proliferation of immune system cells called lymphocytes.
These phytochemicals have also been shown to decrease chromosomal damage caused by cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug.
Folate is extremely important for a healthy pregnancy.
Adequate intake reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects.
Recent research from McGill University found a 30 percent higher incidence of a variety of birth defects in baby mice conceived using sperm from mice with a folate deficiency compared with mice conceived using sperm from mice with adequate folate levels.
Lower risk of depression
Foods containing high levels of folate may help to decrease the risk of depression because folate helps to prevent the build-up of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain.
Excess homocysteine can also interfere with the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
Despite its creamy texture, an avocado is actually high in fiber with approximately 6-7 grams per half fruit.
Eating foods with natural fiber can help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer.
Adequate fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which are crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.
Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may also play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation.
Substances called saponins, found in avocados, soy and some other plant foods, are associated with relief of symptoms in knee osteoarthritis, with further research planned to determine the long-term effects of isolated extracts.
Avocados contain substances that have antimicrobial activity, particularly against Escherichia coli, a leading cause of food poisoning.
Protection from chronic disease
According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.