Avocados: The Superbowl Healthy Fat
Contrary to popular belief that avocados became popular because of finicky millennials, the avocado entered America’s homes with the Super Bowl. Until the mid-90’s importation of avocados into the US from Mexico was illegal due to laws from the 1800’s to guard against pests and agricultural disease. Aware that an entirely new market would open up once avocados were allowed across the border and that avocados ripen in January, it took America’s biggest primetime advertising space – Super Bowl Sunday. Advertisers set out to make avocados to the Super Bowl like pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving. Today, our favorite healthy fat has conquered the mainstream market (extra for guac) and some cartels make much more profit off of avocados than drugs. We know the avocado reigns supreme on healthy fats. What qualifies as a healthy fat and what makes the avocado the queen of all healthy fats?
When avocados were being introduced to Americans, there had been decades of work heavily promoting research that linked eating fat to getting fat and high cholesterol which helped sell processed "low fat" foods that were cheaper to make and had longer shelf lives. Because avocados are mainly fat, it was necessary to make avocado fat different from butter fat. Avocado fat is monounsaturated, a type of fat usually found in plants like nuts while butter fat is saturated fat. On a molecular level, the two fats are different. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, saturated fats are solid. Olive and avocado oils are unsaturated and liquid, while butter, bacon grease, and coconut oil are all solid at room temp. Nuts, seeds, and olives are the next foods with high unsaturated fat content. Fatty fish (salmon, tuna) are the next big source.
More recently and probably due to the popularity of the high-fat Keto diet, grass-fed butter, tallow, and ghee have been added to the “healthy fat” list even though they are saturated fats, and egg yolks have quietly been removed from the "cholesterol danger" list. More recent research has shown that the link between saturated fat and cholesterol isn’t as strong as it was once thought to be. While someone watching their cholesterol may still want to avoid saturated fats, it’s been disproven that saturated fats are a direct cause of high cholesterol.
Basically, when we say avocado is "healthy fat" it means it's a plant-based unsaturated fat. Research is ongoing in the works about if saturated fats are really as evil as we thought they were... but at large it seems like moderate consumption of saturated fats is perfectly healthy too. The fat to watch out for is transfat, that's the one with an added hydrogen molecule in processed foods. All other fats from non-processed whole foods are healthy in moderate proportions.