Q: I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think about avocados. They’re high-fat and high-calorie, but apparently they’re also nutritious—how does that work? And how do I select a good, ripe one?
A: Although avocados are high in fat, it is largely the monounsaturated kind important in heart-healthy diets. They also are high in fiber and a source of lutein, a natural antioxidant known to be beneficial to healthy eyes and skin. Avocados are fantastic mashed in fresh guacamole or cut in pieces for a dish, like in our pan-seared shrimp recipe below (which also gets a boost from lycopene-rich tomatoes and high-protein seafood).
We favor small, rough-skinned California Hass avocados over the larger, smooth-skinned Florida avocados, which taste watery and bland. Avocados are typically sold relatively hard and unripe and require at least a day or two in a dark, warm spot to soften and develop their characteristically creamy texture and flavor.
When ripe, the skins of Hass avocados turn from green to dark purplish-black and the fruit will yield slightly to a gentle squeeze when held in the palm of your hand. Another way to identify ripeness involves the small stem on the small end of the avocado. If you can easily flick it off with your finger, and you can see green underneath it, the avocado is ripe. If the stem is not easily removed, save the avocado for another day.