Avocados for the Athlete
By Dina Griffin
Triathletes need healthy fat sources in their daily nutrition to round out well-balanced meals that include lean proteins and fiber-containing carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Although avocados are technically a fruit, they are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat. This type of fat can improve lipid profiles and blood pressure, and reduce risk for heart disease and potentially some cancers. Avocados also provide B vitamins, potassium, fiber, phytosterols and antioxidants with their beta-carotene, vitamin C, E and lutein content. They are a good source of quality calories, but their lesser known nutritional benefits include protection against cell damage and inflammation, both of which must be managed to keep you healthy and strong.
If you are new to buying avocados, they are one of the produce items that you definitely want to “touch and feel” to make your selection. Look for ones that are slightly soft but not too squishy. If you buy firmer avocados, you can store them at room temperature in a paper bag for a couple of days to ripen. If you do not use the entire avocado after you cut into it, you may see a discoloration occur on the inner surface after exposure to air. To avoid this, you can squeeze some lemon or lime juice to minimize the browning. Or just simply scrape off the top colored layer and the rest of the avocado should be edible.
Now it is time to experiment with this wonderful fruit beyond your typical chips and guacamole appetizer or the avocado wedges on your lunch salad. Here are a couple of ideas to try that are easy, quick and so tasty!
- No matter whether you prefer vegetable or fruit-based smoothies, avocados blend well and make a creamy addition.
- For a fruit-based smoothie, you can start simple with banana, mixed berries, any milk such as coconut or regular cow’s milk, and an avocado. Add a scoop of protein powder and you have a great post-workout recovery snack.
- If you make your own hummus, you can sneak in an avocado along with the garbanzo beans or use any other beans you like.
- Chop an avocado and mix into a salsa. The bright green color adds a fresh look and you can even fool guests into thinking you made your own salsa! This is delicious on vegetable omelets, bean dishes or as a topping for burgers.
- If you like cottage cheese, add chopped tomato and avocado, season with fresh ground pepper, garlic powder and any other seasonings you enjoy. Add black beans for even more protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied.
- Instead of cottage cheese, you can use fresh mozzarella or some feta crumbles with the tomato-avocado-black bean combination for another delicious and filling snack or on top of a bed of mixed greens for a meal.
Remember, the fat content of the avocado is not to be feared. The type of healthy fat that it provides, along with its many other nutritional benefits, should help you see that this fruit can be part of your everyday nutrition and in ways you may not have realized!
Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD is a sport dietitian for Fuel4mance, a nutrition consulting and coaching company based in Colorado. She works with a diverse range of athletes, including those who have diabetes. Learn more about her at www.fuel4mance.com.