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By Lindsay Campbell

If you're a sucker for a good avocado, an even better one could be on the way.

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picture alliance / San Diego Union-Tribune / C. Neuman

By Andreas Knobloch

The U.S. has acquired quite a liking for the Mexican dip guacamole. Especially on the day of the Super Bowl, Americans devour the avocado-based dip in immense quantities. According to the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM), 120,000 tons of avocados were imported by the U.S. for consumption during this year's Super Bowl alone. That's 20 percent more than in the previous year and four times the quantity of 2014.

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By Melissa Kravitz

As climate change makes it harder for avocado growers to produce the fruits, the criminal underworld has seized on avocados' ever-growing popularity.

In January 2015, the Washington Post demonstrated how this once rare, seasonal and regional treat has become a supermarket and fast-food mainstay, with American avocado consumption doubling in the past five years, to about 4.25 billion avocados consumed annually in 2015. And with average avocado prices exceeding $1 per avocado in the colder months, it's easy to see why this multibillion-dollar industry has inspired some criminal activity—especially as avocados are now considered a luxury item.

"When it comes to growing avocados, getting them to fruition on a tree and having them ready to pick, literally those are dollar bills hanging on a tree," said Ken Beckstead, who grew up on an avocado ranch in San Diego and later worked for Texas' Henry Avocado Corporation. "Fruit thefts are a multimillion-dollar-a-year industry."

Money may not grow on trees, but for farmers without proper security or fences, Haas avocados growing openly are an easy target for criminals.

"You're on such a fine profit margin," said Beckstead, noting that the outsides and edges of avocado groves and a few rows in are most susceptible to avocado theft. Not only are these profits being stolen from the growers, but improperly cut avocados or avocados broken at the stem and left to ripen on trees are not sellable.

Growing an avocado is no easy task. An avocado tree needs 40-50 inches of rainwater per year to thrive. Thanks to the ongoing drought and summer heatwaves in California and negative effects of climate change in Mexico and the American Southwest, avocado farming has become more difficult.

While demand for avocados increases, so does the potential for theft. "What everything centers around is water," Beckstead said. "There's such a drought in California, the water rates are so high that literally if you don't have a well and you're not pulling water up out of the ground, you can't afford to grow avocados anymore."

He also noted that other countries don't filter their water to the same standards as American growers, making it cheaper to irrigate their crops.

Worse yet, those who want to profit from avocado sales will do whatever it takes to grow the profitable fruits. In Chile, the second-biggest avocado growing region after Mexico, a river in the Ligua Valley was drained by 2014 to feed thirsty avocado plants.

"Because they're overexploiting the water by throwing it at the hills, the river has dried up," Ricardo Sangüesa, an avocado farmer in the region told Civil Eats. Water smuggling can deprive small farmers and local communities of the water they need to live, just to grow the "green gold."

Some in the avocado industry, however, claim there is no connection between crime and avocados. Perhaps regionally, that's true. Ramon Paz-Vega, strategic adviser to the Mexican Avocado Producers and Packer-Exporters Association, believes there is "no definitive link" between the two.

"The facts are that avocados have become a U.S. staple and a global cultural phenomenon. This popularity has created a more profitable business, which has led to job opportunities for thousands of people in the Mexican state of Michoacán," Paz-Vega said. "Now, citizens of Michoacán have an opportunity to make a decent, productive and honest living. Without this crop, many of those small farmers and workers would be migrants or recruits of organized crime who want to capitalize on the success of others."

APEAM works with communities of growers and Mexican and U.S. officials to ensure "we are protecting our farmers, their livelihoods, and the integrity of their work," Paz-Vega explained.

By Taylor Jones

Avocados are a unique and delicious fruit.

Most people consider avocados to be healthy since they're rich in nutrients and healthy fats.

Most people consider avocados to be healthy since they're rich in nutrients and healthy fats.iStock

Some people also believe the healthy fats in them are perfect for weight loss.

However, others fear these fats may cause you to gain weight.

This article explores whether avocados are weight loss friendly or fattening.

Avocado Nutrition Facts

Avocados are a great source of several vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. 3.5 ounces (100 grams) or about half an avocado, contain around 160 calories (1).

This serving also contains:

  • Vitamin K: 26 percent of the RDI.
  • Folate: 20 percent of the RDI.
  • Vitamin C: 17 percent of the RDI.
  • Potassium: 14 percent of the RDI.
  • Vitamin E: 10 percent of the RDI.

Avocados also contain a fair amount of niacin, riboflavin, copper, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants (2, 3).

Furthermore, avocados are low in carbs and a great source of fiber. Each serving contains only 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which come from fiber.

Unlike most other fruits, avocados are relatively high in fat—about 15 percent by weight.

Bottom Line: Avocados are packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats.

Avocados Are High in Heart-Healthy Fats

Although avocados are technically a fruit, nutritionally they are considered to be a source of fat.

Unlike other fruits, avocados are very high in fat. In fact, 77 percent of their calories come from fat (1).

Avocados contain mostly monounsaturated fat, plus a small amount of saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

Most of that monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olives and olive oil. This type of fat is considered to be very healthy.

Numerous studies have linked oleic acid to health benefits, such as decreased inflammation and a lower risk of developing heart disease (4, 5).

Several studies have also shown that replacing some saturated fat in the diet with monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat can lead to health benefits.

These benefits include increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control and lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol (6).

One review of 10 studies found that replacing some fats in the diet with avocado may decrease total cholesterol by an average of 18.8 mg/dl, the "bad" LDL cholesterol by 16.5 mg/dl and triglycerides by 27.2 mg/dl (7).

Another study compared moderate-fat diets containing either avocados or oils high in oleic acid. The diet containing avocados improved blood lipid levels even more than a diet with oils that were high in oleic acid (8).

The avocado diet also decreased "bad" LDL cholesterol by 10 percent and total cholesterol by 8 percent. It was also the only diet to decrease the number of LDL particles.

And, as if those benefits weren't enough, avocados contain almost 20 times more fat-soluble phytosterols than other fruits. Phytosterols are plant compounds believed to have positive effects on heart health (3).

Bottom Line: Avocados contain a high amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats similar to those found in olive oil.

Avocados Can Help You Feel Full Longer

Foods that are high in fat or fiber can help you feel more full and satisfied after eating. This is partly because fat and fiber slow the release of food from your stomach (9, 10).

This causes you to feel full for longer and can mean you end up going longer between meals, potentially even eating fewer calories overall.

Avocados are high in both fat and fiber, meaning they should have a strong effect on feelings of fullness.

One study looked at how eating a meal that included avocado affected the appetite of overweight and obese people (11).

People who ate half an avocado with their lunch had a decreased desire to eat for up to five hours afterward, although the effect was strongest within the first three hours.

Participants also felt 23 percent more satisfied after the meal that contained avocado, compared to when they ate the control meal without it.

These properties may make avocados a valuable tool when it comes to appetite regulation and weight loss.

Bottom Line: Because avocados are high in fat and fiber, they can help you feel more satisfied and keep you feeling full for longer.

Avocados May Help With Weight Maintenance

Studies have shown that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have lower body weights (3).

One large observational study examined the nutritional patterns of Americans. Those who ate avocados tended to have healthier diets, a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and a lower body weight than those who didn't eat avocados (12).

Although this doesn't necessarily mean that avocados caused people to be healthier, it does show that avocados can fit well into a healthy diet.

There's also no reason to believe avocados should be avoided when losing weight.

In fact, one study found that when 30 grams of fat from avocados were substituted for 30 grams of any other type of fat, participants lost the same amount of weight (13).

Although there is currently no evidence that avocados can improve weight loss, there are reasons to believe avocados could have a beneficial effect.

This is because in addition to improving heart health, the monounsaturated fats in avocados appear to have several other beneficial qualities (4):

  • They are burned at a higher rate than other types of fats.
  • They may actually increase the rate at which fat is burned.
  • They may cause your body to burn more calories after eating.
  • They can reduce appetite and decrease the desire to eat after a meal.

However, it is important to note that these effects are not yet well researched.

Yet some preliminary evidence suggests avocados may help fight weight gain.

One study found that rats fed defatted avocado pulp ate less food and gained less weight than the control group (14).

A second study also found that rats fed avocado extract on a high-fat diet gained less body fat (15).

These studies are especially interesting because defatted avocado pulp and avocado extract do not contain fat. This means there may be other components in avocados that also help reduce appetite and weight gain.

Bottom Line: People who eat avocados tend to be healthier and weigh less than people who don't. Avocados may even help prevent weight gain.

Avocados Are Relatively High in Calories

Because avocados are relatively high in fat, they are also high in calories.

For example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of strawberries contain 32 calories, compared to 160 calories in 3.5 ounces of avocado (1, 16).

While many different things can affect weight loss or weight gain, the biggest factor is the number of calories you eat.

Because avocados are relatively high in calories, it can be easy to eat too much without realizing it.

So if you're trying to lose weight, be sure to stick to reasonable portions. One portion is typically considered to be a quarter to a half of an avocado—not the whole thing.

Bottom Line: Although avocados are healthy, they are also high in calories. Make sure you pay attention to portion sizes if you are trying to lose weight.

Weight Loss Friendly or Fattening?

There is no reason to fear that avocados will be fattening, as long as you eat them as part of a healthy diet based on whole foods.

On the contrary, avocados have many qualities of a weight loss friendly food.

And although there's currently no direct evidence that avocados cause weight loss, there are some reasons to believe they could help.

As long as you eat them in reasonable amounts, avocados can definitely be part of an effective weight loss diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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