By Alexa Santory
There's a reason why they're all over your feed…
Remember when that millionaire said that millennials would never be able to afford homes because we spend all our money on avocado toast? Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but I did have something like an epiphany when he said it. I mean, when did avocados become so popular??? What is it about this weird is-it-a-fruit-is-it-a-vegetable that everyone loves so much?? Today’s Beauty School lesson is all about the mysterious rise of the avocado and how it became a kitchen staple across America almost overnight.
Avocados in America: A Brief History
The popularity of the avocado in the US is rather new. However, they've always been pretty popular in California, because of their ability to grow them well. Mexico, though, is the world’s leader in avocado growth and production. They produce ⅓ of the world’s avocados, mainly from one region called Michoacán. This area is rich in volcanic soil, which has a slew of benefits on its own. Areas that have a great deal of volcanic soil are extremely fertile and help produce healthy plants. Volcanic soil is full of minerals and nutrients like potassium, calcium, and phosphates, which helps produce some impressive plant life and vegetation, stuff you likely won't find elsewhere! This is what makes this region of Mexico so unique and so integral to the growth of good, healthy avocados. So, why weren't we allowed to bring them into the US? What was so bad about this harmless little fruit? Well, in 1914, the United States established a ban on avocados from Mexico due to fear from California growers of insect infestation. There was a particular type of weevil they feared would ruin their crops. They also feared it would create a competition between the two markets. See, Cali avocado growers were the leading producers of the fruit for the US. They were afraid foreign crops would outsell theirs as well as bring in foreign insects that could potentially ruin their hard work. Around this time, avocados weren’t even on the radar of the typical consumer, especially if you lived outside of California. It wasn’t until the 90s that interest in the fruit became more prevalent in the United States. The ban on avocados was lifted in 1994, under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Still though, Mexican avocados weren’t allowed in California! Crazy right? They were still afraid of what it could mean for their crops and only allowed avocados to be imported to some states. Even still, this was a major step in the right direction for introducing this magical fruit to the US.
Not all good things come easy though, and although avocados from Mexico were now officially allowed here, growers in California were scared because people just didn’t know what to do with ‘em. They were odd to most people: they had a massive pit, they were pulpy but buttery at the same time, and they went bad seemingly in a heartbeat. What gave? How was this fruit that people fought so hard to get into the US going to measure up? It didn't help that right before this, there was a push to change the name of avocados to something more “exotic” (yikes, that didn’t work). At the same time, nutritionists were advertising low fat diets as the way to go, but due to public misunderstanding, people didn’t know the difference between good and bad fats, leaving avocados in the crossfire. *Sigh.* What to do? Well first, they had to establish avocados as something that was good for you. People didn’t know the difference between saturated and monounsaturated fats, the latter being the one that’s good for you and what avocados are chock full of. Even with that information, people still weren’t buying them! C’mon health nuts! Enter: the Hill & Knowlton PR firm. Yes, good marketing is what skyrocketed avocados to notoriety. The country was introduced to Mr. Ripe Guy, the avocado mascot of the 90s, and that’s when everything changed.
Hill & Knowlton saw this is a way to make the fruit more accessible and fun. It gave people the courage to try and learn all the interesting ways to avocados can be used. And then of course, there was the Super Bowl. At the biggest sporting event of the year, avocados front and center with a “Guacamole Bowl” campaign that solidified the green fruit’s place in American culture. If you're going to thank anyone for the popularity of the avocado, thank Hill & Knowlton. They knew what they were doing! Since the 90s, avocados have become our most valuable fruit import, knocking bananas out of the top spot for the first time ever. We're finally seeing the value of this incredible pitted fruit, and that's not only in its nutrition, but its versatility too!
Some Incredible Avocado Benefits
Avocado is often lauded as the super food, and rightfully so. They have an impressive list of uses and some pretty incredible health benefits. Here are a few reasons why we love ‘em so much.
The amount of nutrients they have is unparalleled. Avocados are really good for you, guys. They have a ton of fiber, are super low in calories, and they're packed with essential vitamins that benefit us from head to toe. Also, those good fats we were talking about before? Those are called monounsaturated fats and they're actually useful to our bodies, despite the bad rap fats usually get. These fats are good for our most important organs: the heart and the brain. Avocados have vitamins A, E, C, B, and K, all of which are necessary for us to function. They also have lots of potassium (even more than bananas), along with copper and iron, which are excellent for our blood. They're an excellent source of protein and can help keep you full for much longer!
They're great for just about every part of our bodies. No seriously, your heart, brain, skin, hair, gut, hormones, all of them can benefit from avocados in some way! Let's look a little further into each one.
Because of all the good fats, eating avocados can aid in balancing the blood lipids and preventing issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hardened arteries. High in potassium, avocados can also help reduce high blood pressure since potassium reduces the effects of sodium. Avocados are also rich in vitamin E, which is excellent for reducing LDL levels; aka bad cholesterol. See! Not all fat is bad for you!
They have a ton of fiber (11-17 grams!), which is necessary for balancing the bacteria in the gut. Fiber helps makes it easier to go to the bathroom, and since they're full of good fats, digestion is that much easier, too. The high fat content in avocados could also aid in weight loss. This is because diets high in good fats and low in refined carbs decrease the urge to overeat. Good fats are very filling and allow our bodies to go longer between meals without feeling like we're gonna pass out!
The good fats in avocados can help prevent insulin resistance and diabetes. This is because monounsaturated fats help decrease the glucose in our blood. The fatty acids balance out hormones naturally, helping our reproductive systems, and cognitive health. The fatty acids in avocado can also help boost your mood! Science has even found a link between consuming monounsaturated fats and a decrease in mood disorders like depression and anxiety!
Skin and hair:
There's a reason why we use it in so many of our products. Well, more like many reasons! Avocados are one of nature’s most perfect moisturizers, and their fats contribute to the health and appearance of our hair, skin, and eyes. They’re high in antioxidants and contain a carotenoid called lutein, which supports eye and skin health. Since they're so high in antioxidants, they help protect our skin and hair from free radical and UV damage! Dr. Axe knows what he’s talking about!
They're extremely versatile! There are at least 50 different uses for avocados, from hair conditioner to face masks to baked goods to fabric dye, avocados are unmatched when it comes the amount of things you can do with them. In short, not only are they delicious, and super good for you, they have a wide range of uses that can benefit every one of us!
However you decide to use this truly magical fruit, take advantage of their impressive list of benefits. Chances are, they could start you on a much healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle!
The Streets Are Talking
"I first tried this mask in an avocado mixed with oils. It was amazing! The second time I used it I used a regular deep conditioner. It still behaved well and my hair is shiny and so defined. I really like this one!"
Tomorrow we look at some super cool ways to use avocados, from beauty to recipes. Stay tuned!