Why superfoods aren’t as super as they sound

Goji berries, chia seeds, quinoa and avocados – the so-called superfoods of our time. Especially the avocado is known as the mother of all healthy fruits. Avocados are good for us, no doubt about that, but are they also good for our planet? Well, no, but let me explain.

Why we love avocados

Avocados aren’t only healthy and tasty; they also have one very special quality: they can replace animal products like eggs and butter. And this makes them an important ingredient in the vegan cuisine. But meat eaters love them just as much. Avocados are known to lower cholesterol levels, to strengthen our teeth and bones with vitamin A and influence our vision positively. Not to forget its enhancing effect on our beauty when using it on our face as a mask. The list is endless.

The downside on the avocado

Avocados grow on evergreen trees. Those trees have to grow somewhere and to grow they need, like every tree, soil, air and water. And avocados need a lot of water, 1000 litres for one kilo. Growing the same amount of tomatoes only uses up 180 litres. Which brings us to the next big issue: where avocados manly grow, in South America and Africa, there is a serious water shortage already. Additionally, the demand continuously increases which is why more and more trees have to be planted. In Mexico, numerous forests have been destroyed to meet the needs. Those clearings are responsible for 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year. And it hasn’t even reached us yet!

The long journey begins…

An avocado from South Africa, for example, travels first from the farm in the north of the country to the coast in the very south. About 1000 km. Then it’s loaded onto a ship which takes it to Rotterdam. The passage takes 26 days. During the whole journey the avocado enjoys a comfortable temperature of six degrees in its electrically powered container. When it finally reaches Rotterdam it’s loaded onto a truck and transported another 30 km to its distributor. By that time, the avocado is still as hard as a coconut. The officially called “ripening master” tests one of the avocados in cutting it in two halves to be able to determine its of degree maturity. After that, the avocados are sprayed with the gas ethylene for about six days until they have reached the right maturity level. And finally they are brought to your supermarket around the corner “ready to eat” just for you.

Back to our roots

The story of the avocado is a depressing one: if you are serious about an environmentally friendly cuisine you would have to do without avocados. Instead of eating exotic fruit you would have to go back to poor man’s food. Cabbage and carrots. And you would have to get used to the staff in supermarkets telling you that tomatoes are “out of season” and that you should “try again in two months”. In this world, the avocado would be something special, a Sunday treat. Off we go, back to our roots! Well, at least we can try…a bit…sometimes.