Devilishly Healthy: Avocado, the gateway vegetable to a healthier and more diverse diet

DevHealth

Downtown farmers markets provide options for healthy, fresh, locally-sourced food, including vegetables such as avocado, which are a great introduction to many other veggies. (Carolyn Corcoran/DD)

Everybody rants and raves about increasing vegetable intake to promote better health, but what if you simply don’t like most vegetables? How can you get the necessary vitamins and minerals that veggies provide without forcing yourself to eat an array of veggies you just don’t like?

Perhaps you’re more of a meat-eater who views potatoes as the only acceptable vegetable to consume. Good news — you don’t have to force yourself to eat lots of veggies you don’t like. The trick is to gradually introduce your body to the increase in veggies.

So what exactly is a “gradual introduction?” From personal experience, the way I became more acquainted with an increased amount of veggies was by starting to add avocado to my diet.

Avocado serves as a great catalyst to the increase in veggies. Not only does it have a mild taste that pretty much takes the flavor of whatever you put it in, it also has countless health benefits that beat out many other veggies.

Some of the health benefits avocados offer, according to Medical News Today, are:

  1. Healthy fat: While avocados are high in fat, it’s monounsaturated fat, which is the fat that your body needs in order to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol.
  2. Protein: Unlike most fruits and veggies, the average avocado contains around 4 grams of protein.
  3. Sugar: The sugar content in avocado is a lot lower than other fruits and veggies, at 0.2 grams of sugar in half an avocado.
  4. Vitamins and minerals: Avocados are a great source of potassium, vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E2 and vitamin K.
  5. Dietary fiber: Avocados can easily contribute to your daily intake of fiber, as the average avocado has about 11 grams of fiber.
  6. Promotion of healthy body weight/BMI: Studies have shown that adults who eat avocado are more likely to have a lower body weight.
  7. Cancer prevention: High in phytochemicals, avocados have the potential to defend against certain cancers.

All of these health benefits are great, but you may be wondering how exactly to incorporate avocado into your everyday diet.

Some ideas are putting slices of avocado in your sandwich, dicing them up and putting them in salad or making some guacamole and having it with pita chips or another healthy option.

Once you have integrated avocado into your diet and you’re ready to start introducing other veggies, the best place to start is at a farmers market such as the Phoenix Public Market’s Saturday morning Open Air Market.

At a farmers market, you’re more inclined to buy more veggies because a lot of fresh produce is available and the prices aren’t as inflated as they are at grocery stores.

Suzan Gazioglu, a professor at Montana Tech University and avid farmers market enthusiast, shared what draws her to the local farmers market.

“The aspect that the produce is locally grown and supports local farms is a huge factor to me,” she said. “Many times, the farmers that sell their vegetables at the farmers market are small families that work together to produce the crops. They pick the crop early in the morning and sell it that very day.”

Gazioglu went on to say that she often goes to the farmers market in the morning to buy her veggies and then she’ll come home and make herself a nice breakfast, starting her day off on a healthy note.

The Open Air Market consistently does a good job of ensuring that a wide variety of vegetables are available, and they even let you sample some of the produce. It truly offers the downtown community essentials that every farmers market should have: produce, art, handicrafts and breads. Take a moment out of your Saturday morning to invest in your community and in your health by visiting the market and picking up some fresh, delicious vegetables.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Contact the columnist at wshahid@asu.edu