Avocados are awesome. They’re very nutritious (we’ll tell you why below), they look great (the images in this article speak for themselves) and they have an amazing attitude (not ripe – not ripe – not ripe – just right for one or two seconds – whoops, too late).
They’re rich, creamy, mild — and they are very versatile, which makes them a staple of a nutritious, health oriented diet.
But avocados have gotten a bit of a bad rep, lately. They’ve been scapegoated again and again as climate killing, water wasting luxury item — while being made synonymous with veganism. You’ve read the headlines (“Sorry Vegans, …”).
So, if you’ve encountered situations where people where trying to give you s*** for your avo smash, here’s a gentle guide to debunk the debunk.
But first, let’s look at the nutritional upsides of this truly super superfood.
The Nutritional Benefits of Avocado
An 80g portion of avocado contains:¹
- 5g Protein
- 6g Fat
- 5g Carbohydrates
- 6g Fibre
- 360mg Potassium
- 56mg Vitamin E
“Loaded with Vitamins, Fiber, Antioxidants, …”
It also packs Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 and — in small amounts — Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosporus, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).
Additionally, avocado is known for being low in saturated fat, loaded with “heart-healthy” monosaturated fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants.²
Studies³ have shown that avocados can…
- … reduce total cholesterol levels significantly
- … reduce blood triglycerides by up to 20%
- … reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 22%
- … increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol by up to 11%
So there’s no doubt: Avocados are good for you. But are they as bad for the environment as we’ve been made to believe?
Avocados and the Environment
As with most things, to answer this question, it makes sense to ask: “Compared to what?”
A medium-sized avocado has a carbon footprint of about 420g per fruit.⁴ That’s the equivalent of two cappuccinos, with the milk used being the main culprit.⁵ And the amount of water used for growing coffee beans is roughly the same, too.⁶
“A bottle of beer has twice the carbon footprint of a normal avocado.”
Heck, even a single bottle of beer has a carbon footprint twice the size of a normal avocado⁷ — with basically none of the nutritional upsides, of course.
Is Avocado-Bashing a Scheme to Downtalk Veganism?
Looking at these simple comparisons, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the consumption of avocados has been consciously made synonymous with veganism — potentially to bash a diet-“trend” threatening heritage and tradition? Or, uhm, industries?
It’s also not accurate of course, as you don’t need avocados in your diet to live a healthy vegan life. But implementing a bit of avocado does offer quite some benefits, and for everyone: Meat-eaters, vegetarians, flexitarians, you name it.
Meanwhile, animal products, and especially meat still has the largest environmental footprint by far⁸ — yet, instead of addressing this far bigger problem, we’ve decided to get stuck bashing millenials and their avocado smash.
Let’s look at the numbers:
- Farmed salmon comes with a hefty 11.9kg of CO2 per kilo.
- One kilo of lamb meat causes a shocking 39.2kg of CO2.
- Beef cattle has been found to cause 10 times higher environmental costs than other lifestock.
“Animal products still have the largest environmental footprint by far.”
And the winner — beef — takes it all. To produce beef, 28 times more land and 11 times more water is used than for pork or chicken.⁹
And we haven’t even started to look at the ethical implications of factory farming at this point.
Avocados Can Not Be Our Main Concern
So looking at all the above, two things should have become clear:
Avocados are good for you while being less bad for the environment than you were told, especially when compared to foods that additionally have a much lower nutritional value. But even though i.e. meat is more devastating, they do have a sizable impact on the planet that should not be disregarded.
So, should we be mindful of not overdoing our avocado shopping?
Should we make sure to not waste them?
Do they need to be flown everywhere?
No, that’s bonkers.
But are avocados really our main concern?
1 — https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-avocado
2 — https://www.businessinsider.com/10-reasons-to-eat-more-avocado-2014-9
3 — https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1308699/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8561655/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8987188/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15661480/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1414966/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8026287/ & https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/13828982/
4 — https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/revealed-the-enormous-carbon-footprint-linked-to-eating-avocado-a3591501.html
5 — https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/jun/17/carbon-footprint-of-tea-coffee
6 — http://www.befresh.ca/blog-how-much-water/
7 — https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/revealed-the-enormous-carbon-footprint-linked-to-eating-avocado-a3591501.html
8 — https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars
9 — https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars