Avocados used to make healthier desserts

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 18, 2013.

Avocados are a healthy alternative to dairy products like butter in desserts. Photo: Craig Lee, The Chronicle
Avocados are a healthy alternative to dairy products like butter in desserts. Photo: Craig Lee, The Chronicle

You’ve probably had avocados on salads and sandwiches, but would you satisfy your sweet tooth with avocado chocolate pudding or cake with avocado “buttercream” frosting? Increasingly, gourmet chefs and foodies are saying yes.

Avocado desserts have long been familiar to vegans. The fruit can be used as a healthy substitute for dairy products like cream, butter and eggs. Vegan chocolate pudding is often little more than avocados, cocoa powder, soy or almond milk, and honey or agave nectar.

Now there are signs that avocado desserts are entering the mainstream market. Thousands sampled avocado smoothies at the Sunset Magazine festival in Menlo Park this month, and Food Network star Alton Brown dedicated an episode of his show, “Good Eats,” to avocados, sharing recipes for avocado ice cream and frosting.

There are health benefits to trading avocado for the butter in your buttercream. Joyce Hanna, a nutrition expert and associate director of Stanford’s Health Improvement Program, says avocados are high in fiber and have nutrients like folic acid and vitamins K and C. An avocado has 60 percent more potassium than a banana. And, although they are high in fat, it’s the good kind.

“Avocados’ fat content is high, but it’s primarily the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, followed by smaller amounts of polyunsaturated and saturated fats,” Hanna said. “Avocados unfortunately got a bad reputation as unhealthy when the country was on a low-fat craze.”

That seems to have changed.

Last year was the biggest year ever for avocado consumption in the United States, according to the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine. Americans consumed more than 1.5 billion pounds of the fruit, a 34-percent jump over 2011. And the organization predicts avocados will set a new record in 2013.