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Alligator Pear Sunday

By:  Stephanie Small

Foot long subs, Doritos, and beer come to mind when envisioning the typical Superbowl Sunday party, but the health conscious gravitate towards the guac. According to the Hass Avocado Board, Superbowl Sunday is the top day for avocado consumption in the US, when Americans are predicted to consume 49.5 million pounds of the "alligator pear". How much do you really know about that green goop you're putting in your mouth? Well, first of all, did you know it's actually a fruit - not a vegetable - due to its seed?

There's evidence that avocados flourished 50 million years ago in what is now California. Just think, you could be eating dinosaur food! However, the avocado, from the Aztec "ahuacatl", is generally agreed to be native to Central and South America. Despite the fact that they considered it rather tasteless, Aztecs consumed avocado voraciously. This could be due to the fact that it was considered to be a sexual stimulant; in fact, "ahuacatl" is Nahuatl for "testicle". Spanish conquistadors introduced the avocado to Europe in the 1500s and its reputation followed: in 1672, W. Hughes, physician to King Charles II of England, wrote that the avocado "nourisheth and strengtheneth the body, corroborating the spirits and procuring lust exceedingly".

Perhaps avocado's gained this reputation because its multitude of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fats and amino acids, which have a powerful fueling effect on the body. One ounce of avocado provides nearly 20 beneficial nutrients. Some of these include iron and copper for your blood and potassium to keep your body chemically balanced. Avocado also features vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6. Because of their rich, wonderful fatty acids (they're one of the best plant sources for Omega 3s), they assist the body in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Avocados provide all 18 essential amino acids, and, some argue, more protein than cow's milk. Their low sugar content and absence of starch make them ideal both for diabetics and for those who wish to lose weight. And their creamy texture means they're a great dairy substitute, as seafarers in the 1700s discovered by spreading "midshipman's butter" on their biscuits during long voyages.

Excited about eating avocados, but not sure where to start? Here's a nice basic guacamole recipe. Be sure to use ripe avocados that are soft, but not totally mushy, when squeezed.

flesh of 3 avocados
1 tomato, diced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix, and enjoy.