The Irvine-based California Avocado Commission and the Hass Avocado Board are among those touting the nutritional benefits of avocados.

Last year, the commission sponsored phytonutrient research at the University of California-Los Angeles that found that California-grown avocados contain 11 carotenoids — plant pigments present in large quantities in dark leafy greens and in red- and orange-hued produce, such as spinach, tomatoes and carrots, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing.

“The carotenoids act as antioxidants, and they’ve been shown to have health-promoting properties,” she said.

This year, the commission is encouraging consumers and chefs to “nick and peel” the fruit rather than cutting the avocado in half and scooping it out.

DeLyser suggests scoring the skin in about three places, then peeling it back to allow the pulp to stay intact.

“If you nick and peel, you have the opportunity to get the full benefit of that outer, dark-green area of the avocado, which is highly concentrated in the carotenoids in the avocado,” she said.

The Hass Avocado Board also will continue to move forward with its nutrition research program, said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director.

The board just approved phase one of its nutritional clinical trials program.

“We will be doing studies related to heart health, bioavailability (absorption of nutrients), weight management and diabetes,” he said.

Top-tier universities such as Ohio State, Penn State and Loma Linda University in California will participate in the program, Obregon said.

This will be the first time the board will sponsor clinical trials with humans.

“We expect to obtain very good results that can be used to develop marketing messages that can be validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration and used to promote hass avocados,” he said.

The California Avocado Commission also is putting out the word that avocados can serve as a fat replacement for shortening or butter in baking.

Substituting equal amounts of avocado for shortening or butter enhances the nutrition content of the item by adding the 20 vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and “good fat” the avocados contain, DeLyser said.

You’ll also save calories, since each tablespoon of avocado has only 25 calories compared with about 100 calories in a tablespoon of butter, she said.

The commission will work with retailers around the country to provide the nutritional messages that they can communicate to their customers on websites, in mailers and in point-of-sale signs.

“We’re making a concerted effort to provide information that is useful to consumers,” she said.