Avocados: Hip, Hype or Healthy?

Avocados have been a mysterious and fascinating fruit ever since they first became popular in the United States in the early 1900s. They frequently spark a lot of debate, even regarding their scientific classifications.

Technically berries, avocados do not resemble other common fruits with this classification. Most common berries are much smaller than avocados, but the definition of a berry does not mention a size requirement.

The avocado craze also includes a great debate over their potential health benefits. They hype may have you believing that eating more avocados can prevent major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Avocados are even said to help you live longer, and are widely included in everything from cooking oils to beauty products. To uncover the truth about avocados, you must look behind the hype and explore the facts about this fruit. Below are some facts to help you understand how the avocado hype began in the U.S. and decide if avocados are hip, or do not live up to the hype.

The History of Avocados in the United States

Although available in the United States prior to the 1920s, avocados were nowhere near as popular as they are today. Their popularity only grew with the development of the Hass avocado. This variety of the fruit was patented in 1935 by Rudolph Hass, a postal worker. His avocado obsession began in the 1920s when he purchased an avocado seed. At one point, he almost stopped his attempts to cultivate a new variety of avocado, but his children liked his avocados and encouraged him to continue the effort.

Today, approximately 95 percent of the avocados consumed in the U.S. are Hass avocados. Most of this product is imported from outside the U.S., though that was not always the case. Despite Mexico’s status as the world’s largest avocado producer, Mexican avocados were banned from 1914 to 1994. The main reason reported was a fear of transporting insects from Mexico into the U.S. with the avocados. Once the ban was lifted, avocado consumption began to increase rapidly in the United States. In 2014 alone, Americans consumed an estimated 4.25 billion avocados.

Avocados and Healthy Fats

One of the major selling points of avocados in the U.S. is their reputation for containing so-called healthy fats. The high amount of monounsaturated fats in avocados, according to many studies, help regulate bad cholesterol levels in your body. There is also some evidence to suggest that a higher intake of monounsaturated fats reduces some osteoarthritis symptoms, though these effects are only positive when you eat avocados in moderation.

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Eating too many avocados is potentially bad for your health, because it can contribute to weight gain. There are 50 calories in one ounce of avocado, ands this high caloric value may partially cancel out the health benefits of the monounsaturated fats the fruit contains. However, when dieting you must consider the high fiber content of avocados as well. Fiber fills you up quickly, so high fiber content makes it more difficult to over-eat when enjoying avocado-based snacks or meals.

The Nutrients in Avocados

Avocados have a well-deserved reputation as superfood. In addition to healthy fats, these high-fiber fruits are rich in minerals and vitamins. The many B vitamins in avocados can strengthen your immune system, making it easier for you to fend off colds and other illnesses. B vitamins provide protection against various types of infections. The other vitamins and minerals in avocados, such as vitamin E and C, provide several health benefits as well, such as:

  • Protecting your eyes.
  • Assisting with cellular repair and development, including during pregnancy.
  • Controlling your blood pressure.
  • Reducing your cancer development risks.

One of the most prominent nutrients in avocados is vitamin K. Vitamin K is an essential vitamin required to help your blood clot. If you do not have enough vitamin K in your system and you receive an injury, it can cause you to bleed excessively. Fortunately, a single serving of avocado at 3.5 ounces contains 26 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K.

How You Eat Avocados Matters

Avocados may seem completely healthy on the surface, but how you eat them makes a difference. In 2016, an online viral video implied that avocado seeds are safe for consumption. The video indicated that grinding the seeds into a powder can allow you to obtain more nutritional benefits. However, little data exists regarding the potential nutritional value of avocado seeds. According to experts, they may even be hazardous to your health. Ultimately, there is not enough information to make a final conclusion.

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Even the part of an avocado you traditionally eat can be deceptively healthy at times, depending on how it is consumed. For example, avocado oil is not always as healthy as it appears. Widely used in cooking, the monounsaturated fats in it are resistant to heat. While you can still reap certain health benefits this way,  bottled avocado oil often contains extra additives and chemicals that are not healthy. Therefore, you must read ingredients labels carefully when purchasing avocado oil.

The Relationship Between Avocado and Guacamole

Although the Hass avocado is the most popular type in the U.S., there are many varieties to choose from. They come in a range of sizes and colors, and you can eat them in many ways. This diversity contributes to their popularity. When eaten alone, the classic method is to slice the fruit in half and eat the inner portion, discarding the seed. Often, avocados are ingredients in other dishes, such as guacamole.

Guacamole is one of the most popular forms of snack dip in the U.S., and contributes heavily to annual avocado consumption. There is a lot of hype surrounding the consumption of guacamole. It is often considered one of the healthiest dips available, but that is somewhat inaccurate. The truth is that guacamole often has fewer calories than other types of dip, but its overall healthiness depends on the ingredients used to make it. While avocado serves as the main ingredient, guacamole recipes vary widely. They can include ingredients such as:

  • Salt.
  • Lime juice.
  • Cilantro.
  • Onion.
  • Cayenne pepper.
  • Tomato.
  • Garlic.

When made using fresh, healthy ingredients and eaten in moderation, guacamole can be a great low-calorie dip. Moreover, the high fiber content will make you full faster so there is less worry about gorging on too many tortilla chips.

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