Avocado – the food that sits on the counter, you squeeze it every day, just waiting for it to be at its ripened prime. If you cut into it a day too soon, you risk wasting the whole thing – but if you wait too long, it will brown before you are ready to enjoy its wonderful benefits. Have you ever wished you could speed up the ripening process to enjoy the silky, creamy texture sooner? Well wish no more… see the science and Registered Dietitian tested method below (in the “Where should I store it?” section).

But first, what’s in an avocado? Avocados are a nutrient dense food that contain a substantial amount of healthy fat, known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). The presence of this fat helps the body absorb fat soluble vitamins found in the avocado and the foods you pair it with. Many studies have shown that MUFAs and other compounds in avocados, called phytosterols, have benefits for heart health – so no, not all fat is “bad fat” when it comes to cardiovascular health. Avocados contain varying amounts of nearly all of the vitamins and minerals recommended for daily intake including B vitamins (except B12), vitamins C, K, and E, potassium, copper, and more.

How do I prepare it? Avocados are very versatile and can be a great topping (think tacos, salads, sandwiches, etc) or can be used to substitute processed fat in ingredients (like tuna salad or deviled eggs). First, cut the avocado length wise. This will reveal a large brown pit (if you don’t plan on using the whole thing keep the pit in the half you plan on saving, this is explained later). The flesh can be scooped out with a spoon or the skin can be peeled off, but either way make sure to get most of the flesh closest to the skin as it has a higher antioxidant level compared to the lighter colored, inner flesh!

How do I select the perfect avocado at the grocery store? If you’re looking for a ripe avocado from the start, look for one that has no sunken, dark, or cracked spots and will yield to very gentle pressure without feeling squishy. If the avocado has a longer “neck” and is not round, it may have been allowed to ripen longer on the branch and therefore is likely richer in its nutty flavor. As an avocado ripens, it will naturally become darker in color – but it’s not reliable to select ripe avocados by their color. You have to feel it. The color of the peel depends on the variety, where it was grown, and more.

How and where should I store it? Avocados should not be kept in the refrigerator until ripe – they should be allowed to ripen on the counter or in a fruit bowl. Once cut, an avocado should be wrapped or stored in a sealed glass container and stored in the refrigerator. If you only use half, keep the pit in place (in the half you store) to slow the browning process. Sprinkling the exposed area with lemon juice also helps to limit browning.

How foods are stored can make a big impact on their ripening time and freshness… here is the magic part (drumroll please)…
Store an avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple, folded over or sealed as best as possible – it will usually ripen overnight or within 24 hours. This is due to the fact that apples release ethylene, a gas that naturally ripens fruits and vegetables. So yes, this will work for other foods such as bananas, tomatoes, corn, etc. because sometimes nature just needs a little help getting on your schedule.
PS- Egg sales will likely be hitting the shelves soon – so check out this avocado deviled egg recipe for a snack filled with healthy fats and protein!

Avocado Deviled Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled
1/2-1 ripe avocado
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Frank’s red hot
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Paprika for garnish

1. Remove the shell from the eggs and cut lengthwise. Remove the yolk and place into a mixing bowl.
2. Add the flesh of ~ ½ avocado (more if necessary after you taste test the filling!), mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper.
3. Using a hand mixer – beat the yolk mixture until creamy.
4. Add to a piping bag (or a zip lock with the corner snipped off) and place into the egg white halves. Use a mini muffin pan to keep the eggs from rolling. You can spoon the filling in too – it will taste the same without looking as “pretty” and I promise I won’t tell Rachael Ray.
5. Garnish with paprika and keep chilled in the refrigerator until served.