The UK has experienced an avocado craze in recent years and demand for them is growing on a daily basis. According to the World Avocado Organization (yes… one actually exists), Europeans ate more than 370,000 tonnes of avocados and by 2017 we expect to see this increase to a whopping 400,000 tonnes. But can we have too much of a good thing? London based nutritionist Alice Mackintonish gives her thoughts…
Avocados have never exactly been an unpopular food, and for good reason. They taste great, they’re versatile and have numerous health benefits. But this humble Central American fruit has hit the big time over the last two years.
Health conscious millenials the world over are living on smashed avo on toast for breakfast as well as superfood salads, vegan sushi, green gazpacho, breakfast bowls and smoothies, vegan chocolate mousses, healthy dips and alternative pizzas toppings.
There are 6.7 million avocado hashtags on Instagram to date, which is a reflection of just how much they infiltrate into our meals. Any sandwich or salad in Pret-a-Manger that contains avocado sells better than anything that doesn’t, and the popularity seems to have spread globally to Australia, Germany, Turkey and China.
The average American was thought to eat 1.5kg’s of avocado per year in 2006, where now they are estimated to eat well over 3kgs… and let’s be honest, we probably all know someone that eats that much per week. Hell, I’ve made guacamole for six with that amount of avocado and it’s disappeared within 15 minutes!
From a health perspective, we love avocado because it contains a nice balance of healthy fats, as well as Vitamins A, E and K. It delivers energising B vitamins, detoxifying folic acid, skin loving vitamin C and copper, and also contains a wealth of anti-oxidants and fibre. They are satisfying and deliver slow release energy making them a good addition at meal times to prevent sugar highs and lows.
Though these rich, creamy fruits are a great addition to our diet, can we really eat them as much and as often as we want, with gay abandon? Well actually, no we can’t.
The main reason for this is that even though the fats in avocado are really beneficial for us, there is a limit to how much the body really needs. Overdo this and you can start to tip the balance the wrong way, potentially leading to weight gain and imbalances with other important fats such as omega 3. Apart from anything else, we also shouldn’t eat too much of the same thing all the time. Variety is essential for a healthy diet.
Other important factors to consider are the recent economical issues thrown up by the humble avocado. Issues such as failed crops, (partly owing to the fact that they require large amounts to water to grow) and strikes due to unfair pay between growers and pickers.
In addition to this, the global supply is simply not possible to keep up with demand. Avocado trees can take 10 years to mature before they start to product fruit and there are limited parts of the worlds that they can be grown. Indeed farmers in Mexico have been cutting down rainforests to make way for avocado plantations. Though this is undoubtedly better than clearing trees for rearing cattle, cutting down rainforest is never a good thing and causes irreversible damage to our environment.
The upshot – whilst acknowledging that everyone is different, roughly ½ a medium avocado per day is a good guideline. This is probably good news because prices have hit record highs in the last 6 months! Of course you may have the odd day where you haven’t eaten any for a week and you decide to have a whole one in a salad… this isn’t an issue whatsoever! The key thing is to remember to get other types of healthy fat in the diet regularly as well – nuts and seeds, (flaxseed and walnuts are brilliant) extra virgin olive oil and all-important oily fish.
Disclaimer – This article is no substitution for individual medical or nutritional advice and you should always seek personalised guidance from a medical professional or qualified nutrition expert before making changes to your diet.
Alice Mackintosh is a registered Nutritional Therapist based in West London’s Chelsea. She runs a thriving practice helping people to manage skin disorders, is a founder of nutritional supplement range Equi London and co-author of bestselling cookbook The Happy Kitchen, Good Mood Food. Follow Alice on Instagram