Any day is a good day to celebrate guacamole (especially when it's served with crunchy tortilla chips).
"Avocados have a lot of health benefits, but the key is to eat them in moderation--along with those beneficial nutrients, there are also a lot of calories and fat," says Susan Watkins, RD, CDE, manager of nutrition education and weight management at St Jude Heritage Medical Group. "And even though that fat is considered healthy, it's always wise to watch your consumption, and that can be tricky when you're digging into some delicious guacamole--it can be easy to eat too much."
Watkins tells you why it's good to dip into guacamole, and ways to make it as healthy as possible (recipe included!).
Guacamole's Good Side
1. It's fatty--but in a good way. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, which can have a positive effect on your health. "This type of fat can help lower cholesterol for better heart health," Watkins says.
2. It's a tasty way to get fiber in your diet. "Many people don't eat enough fiber, which serves many purposes in keeping the body healthy, from maintaining a healthy weight to ensuring the digestive tract runs smoothly," Watkins says. "One avocado has 13.5 grams of fiber, so it's a great source."
3. Avocados are potent disease fighters. “The fiber and monounsaturated fat not only help ward off heart disease, but they also help control blood sugar, which is a preventive way to stave off diabetes," Watkins says. A recent study published in Phytotherapy Research suggests that avocado may lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a compilation of risk factors such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass, that can lead to type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.
4. Nutrients are plentiful. "Guacamole is a well-rounded food that can provide several key vitamins and minerals in your daily diet--among them potassium, folate and vitamin A," Watkins says.
5. Avocados are rich in water. "For overall health, it's ideal to stay hydrated. For most people, that means focusing on how much water they are drinking," Watkins says. "But avocados have a high water content, so guacamole can help meet your hydration needs." (For more ways on how you can eat your water, click here.)
Boost Your Guacamole Game
1. Swap out some of the avocados. You have to use quite a few avocados to get a good-size batch of guacamole, which means you're looking at high calories. "You can cut down on calories by cutting down on the number of avocados you use and replacing some of them with lower-calorie foods that maintain guacamole's signature creaminess," Watkins says. Options include nonfat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, silken tofu, or pureed beans, peas, asparagus, edamame or salsa. Or mix half salsa and half guacamole before eating to dilute the calories.
2. Load up on healthy mix-ins. "One of the great things about guacamole is that it's so versatile and can be adapted to anyone's taste, which means you can include the healthy ingredients you like," Watkins says, adding that tomatoes, onions (red, white or green), garlic and jalapenos are top choices.
3. Go a little fruity. "Avocados are technically a fruit so the addition of other fruits to guacamole can really enhance the flavors in creative ways," Watkins says. "Citrus fruits are great, and they have folate, vitamin C and other antioxidants. Squeeze lemon or lime juice in the guacamole to taste; that may also help keep the guacamole from turning brown too quickly," Watkins says. "You can also add chunks of tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple or papaya, or stone fruits such as peaches. Pomegranate seeds can also bring crunch and color."
4. Watch the salt. "Too much sodium in your diet can increase the risk for high blood pressure, which is itself a risk factor for other diseases," Watkins says. "Many people eat too much sodium, because it's so prevalent in manufactured foods. If you're buying prepackaged guacamole, check the label for sodium content--daily recommended levels of sodium range from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams. If you make it at home, use less salt. Instead, add flavor with garlic, onions or herbs such as cilantro."
5. Pick healthier dippers. Yes, tortilla chips are delicious with guacamole, but the high fat, calorie and salt content in standard chips can be a health buster. "Opt for baked or whole-grain chips, or pair the guacamole with vegetables such as celery, carrot and bell pepper strips," Watkins says. "And guacamole doesn't have to be limited to just a dip--use it as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise, or dollop it on a salad instead of dressing. You still get the great taste of guacamole in a smaller portion."
In the end, enjoy your guacamole, but use it as an excuse to eat more vegetables or as a replacement for other unhealthier options such as mayonnaise and dressings. This can help you to devour this delicious food and still stay healthy!
Try this guacamole with a surprisingly healthy twist: Puréed asparagus keeps things creamy while trimming the fat and calories! (Recipe courtesy Katie Lee, The Today Show)
- 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
- 1 Serrano pepper (seeds and membranes removed if you like it less spicy)
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
- 1 tomato, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Place asparagus stalks in a steamer over 1-inch of boiling water. Cover and wait until they're bright green and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from steamer and set aside to cool.
Once cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Purée the asparagus in a food processor or blender. Add avocado, Serrano, lime juice and garlic, and pulse until guacamole is desired texture. Stir in red onion, cilantro and tomato. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.