Your Avocados May be Blowing Your Diet
We pick them up, squeeze them — maybe even sniff them. But no matter what we do, picking a good, ripe, avocado is a real challenge. Even two identical-looking, feeling, smelling, avocados can have wildly different nutritional content, but how is one to know?
At TeakOrigin, our goal is to use data to understand what’s inside the food we buy and eat. One undertaking has been analyzing avocados with the goal of gaining insights that might help you get higher quality avocados, but what we found surprised even us — you might be seriously under-counting critical calories with that avo toast or weekend guac recipe, and here’s why.
What’s ‘Supposed’ to Be Inside Your Avocado
Avocados are one of the most popular produce items on the shelf.
Demand for avocados has steadily increased from 436 million pounds consumed in the US per year in 1985 to over 2600 million pounds in 2019.
A big reason for avocado’s mass appeal is its fat content. In addition to creating the creamy, smooth texture, the types of fat in avocados are deemed “healthy” by many nutritionists. And avocados deliver a lot of fat!
According to the USDA, a medium-sized avocado (201g) delivers 29g of fat, almost half at around 43%, of the total fat recommended for an adult in a day (about 67g for a 2000 calorie diet). A medium-sized avocado is also calorie-dense, delivering 322 calories, or 16% of the calories required for an average adult.
But here’s the problem, those numbers just didn’t match up with our findings.
When we analyzed avocados in 2019 and 2020 in both LA and Boston, we consistently saw a different, much fattier picture. The avocados we measured averaged more than twice as much fat per one medium avocado, 58g or 87% of the daily recommended value, as the USDA standards say they should have. While this finding shows that avocado is much more efficient than expected at delivering those “healthy fats” nutritionists love, it comes at the cost of a serious, and surprising, caloric implication.
A gram of fat contains 9 calories, whereas a gram of carbohydrates or protein has 4 calories and a gram of fiber or water has 0 calories. If there is more fat than expected, it translates into fewer carbs and proteins or less fiber and water, and ultimately more calories — all unknowingly. Yikes.
From our testing, a medium-sized avocado could deliver 522 calories, just in fat, and up to 554 calories in total — versus 322 — as demonstrated in the graphic below. That’s over a quarter of an average adult’s daily caloric intake!
This is not good news for anyone counting calories or measuring their daily intake. Even worse, it creates a mountain of skewed data that consumers rely on, often through third-party nutrition and diet apps.