Why you're so god damn obsessed with avocados, nature's badass miracle

Why you're so god damn obsessed with avocados, nature's badass miracle

CultureSeptember 30, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

Avocados. They're everywhere: in your mouth, on your phone, in your hands, in your pants ... you're obsessed with them — they are your precious and you know it's true. You and the rest of America.

In fact, the country's insatiable lust for the creamy green miracle fruit has recently become staggering, ballooning just about every year for the past 15 years, according to data from the Hass Avocado Board. In this day and age, the demand for avocado is so high that that sales of Hass avocados, which make up more than 95 percent of all avocados consumed in this here country, exploded to a record of nearly 1.9 billion pounds (or some 4.25 billion avocados) last year alone, a figure more than double the amount consumed in 2005, and nearly four times as many sold in 2000.

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that there are now over 2 million #avocado hashtags on Instragram, and over 100,000  #avocadotoast ones. Even the Google is exploding with avocado-related searches, with the rate of avocado-based queries more than doubling in the the period between 2013 and 2015:

Even stalwart earth witch Gywenth Paltrow has endorsed them, and if Paltrow makes an endorsement, you can be sure that thing is a popular thing.

In terms of the most avocado-obsessed city, Los Angeles is currently #1. Despite its being less than half as populated as New York City, L.A.'s avocado consumption outdoes them by over 50 percent, with a whopping 293.15 million avocados consumed per year. Denver currently in seventh place on the biggest avocado freak list.

Yet, as a country, our individual avocado-loving cities a have joined forces to become the world's largest avocado consumers. 

Look — this is how much you love avocados:

But ... it wasn't always like this. Avocados, until the past few years, were a dietary afterthought; a regional topping local to the Southwest that nobody considered particularly sexy.

It doesn't take much more than a quick glance at a restaurant menu anywhere or a swipe through Instagram to know that's changed.

But, how did this happen? How did avocados go from just another semi-exotic seasonal fruit to the shining poster-child of delicious healthfulness?

Well, definitely not overnight. A number of factors have slowly conspired to make avocado the exalted green taste prince it is today.

1. Fast food made them normal

When the avocado originally infiltrated American markets, it was a rare delicacy enjoyed by West-coasters fortunate enough to encounter the fruit when it was in season.

Flash forward a few decades, and now they're piled high in every supermarket across the land.

"The demand has just been incredible," said Emiliano Escobedo, director of the Hass Avocado Board to the Washington Post. "I think avocados are pretty much mainstream at this point." And just who is responsible for that mainstream-ing?

Fast food.

Chain restaurants like Burger King, Au Bon Pain, Subway, Panera Bread Co., and Chipotle have been capitalizing on avocado's growing popularity and nutritional value by using it as a sales pitch in product launches and ad campaigns. In fact, after Subway announced it would allowing customers to "add avocado" to sandwiches in some 25,000 outlets around the country, their traffic and sales skyrocketed. When Wendy's began offering guacamole chicken clubs, it also saw increases of its own. And who could forget the famous climate change-based Chipotle guac shortage of 2014? People practically rioted when Chipotle hinted it might have to cut precious guac off the menu due to global avocado shortages:

Fast food loves avocado because it gives their processed, plastic food a semblance of health and vitality. It makes them seem as if they're conscious of your waistline; as if they truly care about your family history of diabetes — a comforting mind-trick that directly contradicts what you, the consumer, know about how piss poor their food is for your body and mind. And so, avocados show up on restaurant chain menus all across the country, making it as normal and regular as a tomato or lettuce topping. With that increased visibility comes increased awareness of avocado as a necessary staple, a food we not only enjoy, but are entitled to, like bread. Or Otter Pops.

2. Loosened import restrictions

Another reason you love avocado so damn much is because it's in your face, constantly. It's on menus, in supermarkets, and all over social media. It's abundant, and abundant things are more likely to make their way into your mouth, where you realize they're delicious.

Part of the reason avocado has been able to become so ubiquitous is because of loosened import restrictions from Mexico, the world's largest avocado market.

The U.S. used to ban imported avocados from Mexico until the 1990s, when restrictions were lifted. Slowly, an incremental increase in the amount of avocados imported occurred, and by 2015, 85 percent of the country's avocado supply came from our southern brothers. A good portion of avocados come from California, but ... there's a drought there. Not sure if you've heard. So, we're reliant on Mexican importing to feed the need.

Now that we're able to important all the avocados we can get our fat little American hands on, avocados have simply become more widely available.

3. The best little shelf life ever

Most of the avocados we consume in the U.S. are Hass avocados, brilliant little fruits whose long shelf life means they can be shipped to further distances without spoiling or bruising. They also noticeably change color as they ripen, making them approachable to consumers worried about spending money on unripe produce.

According to this article from Avocado Central, an avocado will not ripen on the tree — in fact, they can be left there for months without harvesting them, which means fresh avocados are available year round. They're always on your mind or in your food, because they never go away. So for anyone eating seasonally, strawberries and apples may fade, but guacamole is forever.

That durability — and dare we say personability — makes them easy to integrate into mainstream markets. Lo and behold, that's another way they end up in your face.

Escobedo summed it up nicely: "They're just the most viable as a mass produced fruit."

4. Growing Hispanic culture

According to the University of California, we have the Aztecs to thank for avocados. They were first cultivated by the civilization in the 15th century, and subsequently introduced to European settlers as "alligator pears." With that, the long and rich tradition of different cultures sharing a love for the same, little green food began, and Mexico's history as the primary producer of avocados was sealed ...

... which is exactly the problem with Donald Trump's proposed wall. Being that Mexico invented avocados and is currently the world's largest producer of them, the wall wouldn't just keep Mexicans out of the country — it would keep avocados out too (most likely in the form of renewed import restrictions and trade imbalances).

Instead, it would behoove our country's avocado mega-fans to keep up good relations with Mexico. Our country has benefited massively from the influx of Mexicans and other Hispanic peoples, not only in terms of the rich and beautiful cultural diversity they bring, but in terms of the really fucking amazing food, too. Mexican cuisine, which heavily features avocados, has itself gone mainstream, thanks to the nearly 40 million Hispanics of Mexican origin who now call the United States home. 

Escobedo attributes much of the zeitgeist around avocado to the Mexican dish of guacamole. Look no further than the success of fast casual Mexican chain Chipotle for evidence that this country will take just about as much it can get. A similar trend can be seen in the demand for tortillas, which has grown considerably over the past decade.

5. They're healthy as all fuck

Probably the biggest reason people are obsessed with avocados is that they're one of the rare foods that's insanely healthy for you, and still tastes great at the same time.

Numerous studies have linked consumption of the fruit to healthier overall diets, and the recent revelation that not all fats are evil has painted the high Omega-3 fatty acid content in avocados in a much more becoming light.

"Avocados do contain fat, but it is mostly the monounsaturated kind [the good kind]," New York University's Langone Medical Center says on its website. "No matter how you slice it, the avocado has plenty of health benefits."

According to an article from Medical News Today, those health benefits include lowering cholesterol, warding off osteoporosis, and keeping your vision healthy. One-half of an avocado contains 20 percent of your daily intake of folate, the benefits of which include lowering risk of depression, helping to protect against miscarriages and neural tube defects in infants, and reducing the risk of breast and other types of cancer.

6. They taste like kissing God

On menus everywhere, avocados are coveted, celebrated items of gustatory and nutritional pleasure. Chefs praise them for their taste, which is creamy enough to balance out acidity or spiciness but mild enough not to overpower other ingredients. They also celebrate them as a luxury of sorts — not quite as coveted as caviar, but hardly as basic as a slice of green pepper or coil of onion.

"It's like a beautiful sandwich with a Tiffany box," Stefano Cordova, senior vice president of food and beverage innovation at Au Bon Pain, told the Wall Street Journal.

Plus, their culinary capacity is massive. They're easy to work with, go with almost every sort of cuisine, and can be instantly and affordably added to any mundane dish to give it color, nutritional content, improved texture and heavenly taste/

7. They're photogenic

In an age of Instagram-mediated status where aesthetic dinners and seductive breakfast concoctions rule all, avocados are our photogenic overlords.

They look dynamic and enticing in any lighting, and they make it seem as if what you're eating is healthy ... therefore you must be healthy.

In that way, they're not only an emblem of what you eat, but how you feel both internally and externally. Search #avocado on Instagram for proof of that, and you'll instantly see what we're talking about.

There you have it folks: you're head-over-heels infatuated with avocado simply because it's in your face. Many factors have contributed to its in-your-face-ness, but the fact that it's an inescapable part of your visual and gustatory life have made it a normalized staple that's easy to eat and even easier to benefit from.

So, yeah. Anytime there's a Chipotle guac shortage riot, count us in. We'll fight with everything we've got.