First shots fired in avocado armageddon
It seems you can have too much of a good thing. The brunch backlash has begun and the exalted avocado is now chief target
The award for world's most controversial fruit goes to the avocado. Millennials were last week warned that frittering away their savings on avocado toast and other luxuries (but mostly avocado toast) could deal a kiss of death to dreams of home ownership. Meanwhile, emergency rooms across the world report an uptick in knife injuries as householders maim themselves trying to slice the fleshy delicacy. Brunch has become a battlefield.
But what of the greatly lauded benefits of the avocado? Here again, the fruit's impeccable reputation has begun to tarnish. Contentiousness reigns. The avocado has for years been hailed as the ultimate superfood - fashionable, tasty(ish) and packed with heart-boosting properties. That it went well with practically everything, literally adding a layer of sophistication to your lazy Sunday breakfast, further enhanced the appeal. Clearly celebrities love eating them - they're a staple on Instagram - but some of them even like growing them, with actor Tom Selleck owning a 60-acre avocado farm and ranch in California.
But now a backlash is under way with experts cautioning that, because of the high calorie count, an avocado- heavy diet is literally too much of a good thing. Plus there are further, more nefarious side effects, with dietitians pointing out that a high-fat diet is linked to lethargy and that many people may be actively intolerant towards the fruit. Something to consider the next time your eye hovers over the a**cado t**st at your favourite brunch spot. "The problem with all foods is that they can be good for you provided you eat the right portions. If the portion is too big, it can take away the health benefits," says dietitian Orla Walsh. "An avocado is predominantly a fat source. It is high in monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy heart fat. The issue is that, for most people, a portion of avocado is around a third of [a fruit] for a female and half for a male. But the problem has to do with how people are eating them. They might get a salad - they want it to be healthy so, along with the vegetables, they add nuts, seeds, avocado, Parmesan and olive oil. So they've made that salad very tasty, with lots of nutrition and also lots of fat. You've just added five different types of fat - which makes it very high in calories. You want to make sure that when you are eating, you are doing so in the correction portions."
A further black mark is that an avocado-rich diet can lead to nutrition deficiencies. Avocados contain high levels of fibre, fat, vitamin E, vitamin K, niacin, vitamin A, potassium and folate. But they are low in protein and certain minerals and vegetates. So an excess of avocado could lead to a shortfall in certain crucial nutrients.
Sleepiness is a risk too. Eating more than 135g of fat per day - a half slice of avocado has 30g of fat - can make you nearly 80pc more likely to suffer daytime tiredness than someone ingesting 58g. The more avocado, the more likely a post-lunch yawn-fest. Avocados can, in addition, cause intense stomach pains, as sugars contained in the fruit are associated with gastroenteritis. That's just one possible side effect of avocado allergy. Other possible reactions include wheezing, coughing and a stuffed nose.
The avocado backlash also has a gory aspect. As reported last week, 'avocado hand' is the term used to describe knife wounds acquired while trying to cut up an avocado. So serious is the problem, doctors in the UK have urged the government there to require avocados to come with health warnings. "People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them," the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons said. "We don't want to put people off the fruit but I think warning labels are an effective way of dealing with this."
'Avocado hand' had a moment when Meryl Streep was identified as a sufferer, having reportedly slashed her hand preparing brunch. In New Zealand, meanwhile, some 300 people have reportedly sued after suffering avocado-related injuries.
"Avocados may seem harmless, but if you've ever peeled and cut one, you know they can be more than a little troublesome," warned The New York Times last month in an article titled 'How to cut an avocado without cutting yourself'. "They're slippery, they're oddly shaped, and they have that annoying pit in the middle that rarely slips out as easily as you'd like. These characteristics have earned the avocado a reputation as one of the most dangerous foods to cut."
There's even an ethical dimension to the Great Avocado Debate, with the trade reportedly coming under the sway of Mexican drug cartels, which regard the fruit no less profitable than cocaine or crystal meth. "Green gold. That's what they call avocados in Mexico, and it makes sense, when you consider that 61pc of the fatty fruit consumed by the United States' seemingly insatiable appetite for the fad food du jour comes from our southern neighbours, leading to a cash crop that surpasses even weed for value," went a 2013 Esquire report on the 'Blood Avocado'.
Demand for the fruit among Western hipsters has also accelerated deforestation in Central and South America.
So what is the hard-suffering avocado advocate to do?
Provided you're not allergic, have avoided cutting your thumb off making brunch and have identified a non-Mexican drug cartel source of avocado… the answer is to indulge in moderation. Avocados are fatty but healthy so long as you don't stuff your face.