Almighty avocado

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The flesh of an avocado is full of goodness, unlike the fruit's poisonous skin and stone.

Persea americana Mill or Persea gratissima C.F. Gaernt, as it is known in scientific circles, contains protein, lutein and other carotenoids, vitamins A, B6, C, E and D, zinc, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous and 60 percent more potassium than bananas.

Studies have shown that a high intake of avocado lowers cholesterol in the blood. By weight, it's 15 percent monounsaturated fat, which helps reduce triglycerides, control blood sugar, lower blood pressure and enhance the action of insulin.

Avocado also contains folic acid, a form of Vitamin B9 that is good for the heart, and folate, another form of Vitamin B9 that is good for pregnancy and decreases the body's content of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cardiovascular disease.

Then there's the oleic acid which, according to pharmacist Nguyen Ba Huy Cuong from Australia's Curtin University, lowers the risk of cardiovascular to diabetes, and reduces arteriosclerosis. And the bulk potassium is good for blood pressure.

As an average avocado contains around 10g fiber, the fruit aids in digestion, protects the intestines and blood vessels, and reduces cholesterol.

According to a recent paper published in The Journal of Nutrition, the oil in an avocado aids in digesting alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and such.

Since lutein is an antioxidant, eating avocado can combat ageing of the skin and protect the eyes and eyesight.

In Vietnam, avocados are grown commercially in the central highlands, mainly around Dak Lak and Lam Dong provinces.

Fruity beauty

The vitamins and minerals in avocado make it a useful fruit for beauty care:

- Vitamin E, for one, protects fatty acids against oxidization and slows down cell aging, keeping the skin young and strong.

- Vitamin A stimulates cell division and fosters collagen production in the skin.

- Vitamin D maintains calcium levels in the blood, so bones and teeth stay strong.

- Potassium and phosphorous beautify the skin and hair as well as develop the body.

- Avocado oil keeps the skin moist, and can actually increase the elastic capacity of skin.

In Oriental medicine, the sweet, tasty, cool fruit is prescribed to recuperate from illness, fix digestive problems, balance the nervous system, stabilize the stomach, liver and gall, and many other benefits. Here are some avocado recipes for treating various ailments and maintaining a healthy body.

- To relieve stomach pain, start by going to any market and buying 300g of avocados, 150g of yellow saffron and 50ml of honey. Back in the kitchen, scrape the avocado flesh into a bowl, and put the bowl in a pot containing enough water to steam the avocado for 15 minutes. Once that is done, the avocado should be desiccated, meaning it should be thoroughly dried. Now, dry the saffron and pound it and the dried avocado into powder, mix in some honey, and roll the goo into small balls. After they have dried, you can drink five of the balls dissolved in warm water twice daily.

- To fine tune the nerves, calmly get hold of 200g of avocados, 50g of jasmine and 30g of honey. As above, spoon out the avocado flesh, put it in a bowl, and put the bowl in a pot containing enough water to steam the avocado for 15 minutes. Once steamed, the avocado can be desiccated. Dry the jasmine and pound it and the dried avocado into powder, mix in some honey, roll the mixture into small balls, and leave them to dry. Drink five balls dissolved in warm water twice daily.

- For hair treatment with a difference, cream one egg white and the flesh of one avocado together, and add olive oil to create an ointment. After rubbing it into the hair and scalp, let the mixture work its magic for 30 minutes, then shampoo normally.

- Even simpler, wash your hair and dry it with towel, thoroughly blend a ripe avocado, rub it in and leave for 15 minutes before shampooing your hair. Do this once daily for a week.

- An alternative is to combine a quarter avocado and one banana, massage it into the scalp, roots and hair for 10 minutes, leave alone for 20 minutes, then wash the hair with cool water. The concentrated vitamins A, B and E in the special blend balance scalp moisture and increase the hair's resistance to the damaging effects of sunlight and dust.

- For soft and glossy hair, make a thick ointment by simmering two sliced carrots and blending them with one avocado. Apply it to the hair and cover with a towel. After one hour, rinse with cool water. The vitamins in the avocado and carrots nourish the hair and restore vitality to lifeless hair that's been exposed to harsh chemicals.

- For the face, a pack can be made by combining the flesh of a half avocado and two spoons of yogurt to create a very thick mixture. Wash the face and neck with clean water, apply the mixture, leave it on for 30 minutes, then rub off with a towel.

- Another mask for the face can be made by blending an avocado and stirring in one spoon of oat powder and two drops of attar of olive oil. Apply the mixture to the face, leave on for 30 minutes, then wash the face with warm water. This can be done twice weekly as part of a routine beauty-care regimen.

- A skin ointment for both the face and hands can be made by blending two avocados and stirring in three spoons of sea salt, two spoons of honey, two spoons of coconut oil and the first extract of two squeezed lemons (make sure they are fresh). Apply the mixture to the face and hands and leave for 15 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.

Tasty treats

- To make avocado juice, simply cut the fruit in half, scrape out the flesh and whip it in a blender with a little sugar and ice thrown in.

- To make a delicious country-style snack, thinly slice the flesh of an avocado, dip the slices in fish sauce, and eat them with sticky rice. The combination of buttery avocado, salty fish sauce and glutinous rice is just right.

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