By: Co+op

Many people have tried their hand at the avocado’s claim to fame, guacamole, but did you know there is so much more to love about this nutritious, wholesome fruit than its role in a classic chip dip? Learn about this amazing fruit that's a true friend to humankind.

Sometimes referred to as a “butter pear,” the avocado contains unique, monounsaturated plant-based fats that earn it a gold star from nutritionists as a heart-healthy indulgence. Avocados can help your body absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D, while also contributing fiber and vitamins B, C and E to your diet. In addition, one avocado has as much potassium as a whole banana. When was the last time butter did that?

Speaking of butter, avocado stands in beautifully for dairy products in a number of recipes, including frosting, smoothies, even milkshakes and ice cream! Vegan bakers often use avocado to replace egg or butter as a binding agent in baked goods like muffins and quick breads. Want to try it at home? A formula of one-quarter cup of mashed avocado per single egg should work to create delicious, healthier versions of bakery favorites. Try this recipe that replaces butter with avocado in a rich chocolate brownie.

Avocado oil is also highly emollient, which means that it nurtures your hair, nails and skin, both from the inside-out (when you eat it) and outside-in (when applied topically). Use avocado to moisturize your skin—smooth the mashed fruit onto any rough patches or apply as an all-over facial mask (avoiding your eye area), wait a few minutes, then remove with a damp washcloth. Soft, moisturized skin is yours, naturally. Avocado oil is an ingredient in many high-end skin care products, some of which you can probably find at your local co-op.

Avocados are more versatile in the kitchen than you might realize. Cut them up and use them to create delectable sandwiches, salads, and wraps. Blend avocado into hot or cold soups, like this deliciously refreshing Cucumber-Avocado Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes. You can even use avocado halves to bake eggs in: Eggs Baked in Avocado with Bacon. Simply spread avocado on warm toast and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper for a quick late night snack.

Not surprisingly, the most common way to eat avocados today is also the oldest way—ancient Aztecs, the first people to enjoy avocados, made a dish with onion and cilantro known as “ahuacamulli.” Although often modified (some people enjoy the addition of tomatoes, garlic, lime, and other things 16th century Aztecs wouldn’t have had), Americans consume roughly 2.5 pounds per person, annually, of guacamole in the United States. As they say, why mess with success? Do you have your go-to recipe for guacamole?

When shopping for avocados, most often you will find the Hass variety. Hass are smooth and creamy with a mild, nutty flavor and a bumpy, green-black exterior. Hass avocados soften slightly and turn almost black in color and yield to gentle pressure when fully ripe. If in doubt as to how to pick a ripe avocado, ask a produce employee for guidance—lest you damage ripe fruit by squeezing too hard!

Want to explore some tasty avocado recipes? Check them out.