14 Things You Need To Know About Avocados

If there's one super nutritious food that most people love, it's avocados. They're perfect in salads and smoothies, make a great spread for sandwiches and burgers, are a healthy alternative to butter in baking, and are essential for creamy and delicious guacamole. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; low in sugar; and high in fiber and good fats, avocados may just be the perfect health food.

Americans love avocados (we eat millions of pounds of them every year), but how much do we actually know about them? Test your knowledge with these fun facts:

1. Although they're often referred to as a vegetable, avocados are technically a fruit — they're a single-seed berry that grows on a tree!

2. There are hundreds of different types of avocados, ranging from the oval-shaped, light-skinned bacon variety to the pear-shaped, thin-skinned zutano variety. Each type differs in shape, size, skin type, taste, and texture.

3. The color of an avocado's skin isn't the best way to determine ripeness. Hold the avocado in the palm of your hand and give it a gentle squeeze instead; ripe avocado will be firm, but will yield slightly to gentle pressure.

4. You can ripen avocados by placing them in a plain brown paper bag and storing them at room temperature. Adding an apple or banana to the bag will speed the ripening process.

5. You should wash avocados thoroughly before slicing into them; this helps prevent any germs that may be on the skin from getting on the fruit inside.

6. Avocados help the body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from foods that are eaten with them. So eating avocados and tomatoes together, for example, can boost your intake of beta carotene.

7. Avocados are naturally cholesterol-free.

8. "Over 75 percent of the fat in avocados is unsaturated fat," according to Avocado Central, "and studies show replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat while staying within calorie needs is more effective in reducing the risk of heart disease than simply lowering total fat intake."

9. Better than a multi-vitamin? One ounce of avocado (about one fifth of a medium avocado) has nearly 20 different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

10. Use avocados in place of butter when you're baking; they'll help keep baked goods moister for a longer period of time.

11. Cook thick slices of avocado on a grill for a nice, smoky flavor — and some beautiful char marks.

12. Avocados make a healthy alternative to creamy frozen pudding pops. Just mix avocado with lime juice and honey to taste and then blend the avocado mixture into twice as much milk before freezing in Popsicle molds.

13. Avocados have been around for a long time; the oldest evidence of their consumption dates back to almost 8,000 BCE.

14. Avocados are the Aztec symbol of love and fertility because they cannot self-pollinate. They even grow in pairs!

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.