The creamy flesh of an avocado gives this food — which is botanically a fruit — an indulgent quality. However, ounce for ounce, avocados are actually one of the healthiest foods around. Not only are they rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, they also contain good amounts of potassium, vitamin E, fiber, folate, and vitamin B6. Best of all, you can enjoy some avocado on all Phases of the South Beach Diet.
There are dozens of varieties of avocados. The two most commonly found in supermarkets are from California: Hass (which have dark green to purplish black pebbly skin) and Fuerte (which have smooth, thin, green skins). When selecting any variety of avocado, choose a heavy, unblemished fruit. Remember that most avocados sold in supermarkets aren't ripe — so plan ahead if you're making guacamole or some other dish using avocados, since they generally take a few days to ripen.
Hard avocados will ripen when kept at room temperature for three to six days. However, you can accelerate this process by storing them in a paper bag. Putting an apple or banana into the bag will make them ripen even more quickly because these fruits emit ethylene, a gas that speeds ripening. To test whether your avocados are ripe, give them a gentle squeeze; ripe fruit will yield to pressure without denting. Overripe avocados will dent.
You can store ripe avocados in the refrigerator for up to three days. Once an avocado is cut, rub the surface with lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration, although a little brown discoloration won’t affect its nutritional value or its flavor. If you’re making guacamole in advance of a party, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to keep it from discoloring.
On the South Beach Diet, 1/3 of a whole avocado or 1/2 cup of guacamole counts as one of your good fat choices for the day (it’s the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of a healthy oil). Slice the avocado and enjoy the slices as is with a squeeze of lemon, as a salad ingredient, or layered with other ingredients on a sandwich or in a wrap (Phase 2). You can even add some diced avocado to a green smoothie.
To pit an avocado, slice it lengthwise from end to end and twist to separate the two halves. Using a sharp knife, tap the knife’s tip into the pit and twist gently to remove. To remove the flesh, run a paring knife or spoon between the skin and flesh, and remove in one piece or dice the flesh while still inside the skin, then scoop it out with a spoon.