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updated: 6/7/2011 1:38 PM

Avocados part of healthy eating plan

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If I were the first person to see a ripe avocado, I would have passed it by.

I just can't imagine how an avocado, with its muddy-brown, alligator-like skin, enticed that first person to pluck it from a tree and take a bite. That person must have been starving or one card short of a deck. Avocados just don't look that appealing.

If you've been ignoring supermarket avocados not ony because of their ugly exterior but because they're the poster child for fatty fruits, it's time to take another look at the facts.

Yes, the noble avocado (Persea Americana) that's been cultivated for at least 7,000 years in Central America is high in fat. Only coconuts surpass avocados on the fat scale.

Let's compare them by equal 100-gram weights; a coconut contains more than twice as much fat as an avocado (33.5 grams versus 15.3). But there's more than that big difference between the two fattest fruits; which type of fats they deliver.

In a coconut, 89 percent of the fat is saturated (considered unhealthy), while only 4 percent is monounsaturated (thought to be heart healthiest). That's why you've never seen me wax rhapsodic about coconuts in this column.

Avocados turn that fat ratio upside down: just 13.6 percent of avocado's fat is saturated, while 64 percent is monounsaturated.

The health world's view of avocados has been turned topsy-turvy as well. Today's avocado is considered to be one healthy fruit. Ounce for ounce, compared to other fruit, an avocado contains more protein. Where a standard whole, small apple supplies just 0.4 protein grams, the same size avocado amount delivers nearly 3 grams. Big difference.

That's not all an avocado delivers, naturally. You'll find healthy amounts of vitamin K, folate and Vitamin E. There's 1 g of fiber in every 1-ounce avocado serving.

I favor the Hass variety that comes California and Mexico; I prefer its rich flavor notes over Florida's larger and smoother-skinned avocados even though Florida avocados are lower in fat (two-thirds that of a Haas) and lower in calories (120 versus 167). Yet my palate also detects less in the way of flavor.

Few folks consume a whole avocado, so when it comes to calories and fat, what would you expect from a single, one-ounce serving? Just 50 calories (82.8 percent from fat) and 4.6 fat grams(64-percent from monounsaturated). That's less than you might expect.

Some 15 years ago when I falsly believed (like most people) that all fats were bad fats, I switched up my guacamole recipe with green peas to cut the fat. Sure, it was still green, but but tasted more like green pea soup than a rich, authentic guacamole.

Today, I stick with a stanard guacamole and switch to baked tortilla or pita chips to keep my snacking to less than 30 percent calories from fat. Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe make-over requests. Write him at