Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I see there are California avocados and Florida avocados. Is there a difference in nutritional value?
A: Florida avocados are the larger, smooth-skinned choices. California avocados sold in supermarkets are the Hass variety, and are smaller and have a pebbly skin that turns from green to a purplish-black when ripe. The biggest nutritional difference between California and Florida avocados is their fat content. For each golf ball-sized portion (two tablespoons, or two to three thin slices), a California avocado such as Hass contains 4.6 grams of fat and the same portion of a Florida avocado averages 3 grams of fat. More than half the fat in avocados is the healthy monounsaturated fat (the type in olive oil) and saturated fat is minimal. You may sometimes see Florida avocados marketed as “lite” avocados – an effort to highlight their lower fat content. This difference in fat content means Florida avocados are a little lower in calories than the California types. For that golf ball-sized portion, the Florida variety has 36 calories versus 50 for the California one. Otherwise, nutritional value of the two types is similar. Avocados contain the B vitamin folate (especially California avocados), vitamin K and fiber. Both avocados also contain lutein (the carotene “cousin” of beta-carotene that may promote eye health), but the amounts don’t come close to what’s in truly high-lutein vegetables like kale, spinach and other cooked greens. Many people prefer the rich flavor of California avocados, and for guacamole and other dips, it’s hard to beat their creamy texture. For slices in a salad, however, some prefer the way the Florida type holds its shape. Either is a great way to add flavor, fiber and a healthy fat to your meal while adding essentially zero sodium. For weight control, simply enjoy their good taste in moderate portions.
For a refreshing way to try either type of avocado, try this Simple Summer Salsa, which also features mango and jicama.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.