PEAR season is in full swing, and the markets and street corners are full of them — from lanky, red long-neck pears to fat, green round ones. Many of us eat the avocado (or pear as we call it in Jamaica) because it goes well with so many things — breads, bullas, buns, or as a side with our favourite meals. But many of us don't realise the great service we are doing to our bodies by consuming this precious single-seeded berry.
“The avocado belongs to the fats and oils Caribbean food group because it contains high levels of fats particularly monounsaturated fats and the essential fats — omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids,” explains nutritionist Vanessa White-Barrow. “A slice (weighing about 3.5 ounces) of the pear provides about 160 calories of energy.”
She says that in addition to being a natural energy bar, the avocado provides a small amount of carbs and protein, along with vitamins C, B2, B3, B6, K, E, folate, pantothenic acid, and low quantities of vitamins A and B1. The fruit is also rich in minerals such as potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and low levels of iron, zinc, phosphorous and calcium. It is also a great source of dietary fibre and antioxidants.
“The level of potassium in the pear is beneficial in lowering blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (namely stroke and heart attacks) and kidney failure,” she says. “The monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fats are beneficial for reducing inflammation which increases the risk of heart disease. The unsaturated fats keep HDL (good cholesterol) high and LDL (bad cholesterol) low.”
Along with balancing cholesterol, White-Barrow says the antioxidants in the avocado promote the growth of healthy eye tissue, reduce the risk of the formation of cataracts, and slows the breakdown of eye tissue. She adds that the antioxidants also help to reduce the risk of cancer.
“The insoluble fibre present reduces constipation as well as reduces the level to which blood sugar will increase after a meal. This helps to reduce diabetes risk. The soluble fibre is beneficial for maintaining friendly bacteria in the large intestine, which also keeps us healthy,” she adds.
Because the avocado is a fatty food, White-Barrow recommends that people who are trying to keep their calorie intake low, and those who are inactive or have high risk for obesity limit their intake to one or two servings per day (one serving is about 50g or 1/3 cup or 1.3 oz).
Although the avocado is generally safe to consume, there have been reports of allergies, especially among people who are allergic to latex. Because of its vitamin K content, White-Barrow advises that those who take anticoagulant medication (to prevent blood clotting) such as Warfarin (Coumadin) should consume avocado in moderation.