Avocados are tasty &mdash and good for you, too

Love the taste of avocados in guacamole but hate the calories? Perhaps the results of a recent study at Ohio State University will make you feel a bit more amenable to the avocado.

You can use guacamole as the occasional treat with tortilla chips. And definitely do use the fatty fruit in salads to increase your body’s efficient use of essential nutrients.

Researcher Steven J. Schwartz and collaborator Dr. Steven K. Clinton, both of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, now are certain that no matter how counterintuitive it sounds to add fats to salads, the practice is a positive one. And avocados seem to be the ideal addition for several reasons.

Research has stressed that a healthful diet includes a rainbow of brightly colored foods: Think red, yellow and orange. Peppers, carrots and tomatoes, for starters, owe their color to a group of more than 700 compounds known as carotenoids, which include beta carotene and lycopene.

Also in that group — albeit disguised by the color of the chlorophylls in them — are dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach.

But carotenoids, Schwartz explained, must combine with fat in order to be absorbed and used by the body.

“We found that about three to five times more carotenoids were absorbed when study participants consumed a salad with avocados,” he said.

There is good reason avocados are a guilty pleasure for some. The researchers wrote in their Journal of Nutrition report that avocados are 17 percent fat. But those fats are the good, easily digestible kind — monounsaturated.

The health-conscious long have been aware that compounds such as beta carotene and lycopene are good ingredients to see on vitamin bottles. They are among the antioxidants that fight cancer. But getting them in real food is even better, said the researchers.

“Any lipid or fat co-consumed with fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids will enhance their absorption,” Schwartz continued. “If you are someone who does not like avocados, then just using regular salad dressing will also work. The thing about the avocados is you get to chew something and also get some fiber and other nutrients.”

Schwartz already is researching another facet of nutrition and health.

“We’re interested in the cancer-preventive properties of various phytonutrients in the diet, like soy products, broccoli and cauliflower,” he said.