Americans love avocado.
The trendiest way to eat it? Avocado toast.
Both foodies and average Joes seem to adore it. It's suddenly on the menu at every culinary hot spot in town. Your friend has eaten it for breakfast every day since July.
How could such a humble dish make such a big impact? Three reasons. One, it's simple. The two essential ingredients are just avocado and toast. Two, it's delicious. Point me to a person who doesn't love the taste of cool, creamy avocado on a warm piece of toast, and I'll show you a person with disfigured tastebuds. Third, it's healthy. Or at least most people assume it is due to its simple, straightforward, low-processed nature.
But is avocado toast really good for you? Here's the lowdown on this wildly popular snack.
The Truth About Avocado
Let's start off by trying to answer a simple question—is avocado itself healthy?
A single avocado contains 322 calories and 29 grams of fat. Those are pretty staggering numbers for a fruit, but they are heavily influenced by avocado's high amount of healthy fat.
Seventy-five percent of an average-size avocado is made up of monounsaturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. The Mayo Clinic says that they may also help with blood sugar control.
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However, those benefits don't mean that avocado's high fat and calorie count cannot be problematic. The key is moderation. If you're wolfing down multiple avocados every single day, you're consuming a lot of extra calories and fat.
But avocados aren't just high in monounsaturated fats. A single avocado also contains 10 grams of fiber and a significant amount of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium. These are all good things—especially the fiber.
A diet high in fiber has numerous benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, it helps to normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, maintain bowel health and aid in achieving a healthy weight. The Harvard School of Public Health states that fiber appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
One of the most interesting effects of fiber is that it slows digestion, which helps you feel fuller longer after you eat. This can be a great benefit for people who want to cut calories and lose weight—or for anyone looking for an afternoon snack to hold them over until dinner.
Pick The Toast With The Most
The second ingredient in avocado toast is, well, toast. Toast comes in many forms. Whole grain bread is a good place to start if you're looking for a healthy, filling choice. Look for the Whole Grain stamp on your bread—a logo created by the Whole Grain Council that indicates a product contains at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving (read more about this here). Whole grain bread is high in complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein—all good things.
A good tip for buying healthy bread is to make sure the first ingredient is "whole-wheat flour," as opposed to "enriched bleach flour" or simply "wheat flour." And don't be fooled by breads labeled "natural"—it should say "organic." A recent study that compared organic, natural and conventional breads found that 63 percent of organic bread ingredients were significant sources of important nutrients, compared to only 27 percent of conventional bread ingredients. Organic breads also contain 49 percent whole food ingredients, which means they're unrefined and unprocessed, compared to 24 percent in natural breads and only 7 percent in conventional breads.
White breads made with white flour or enriched flour are much lower in helpful nutrients than whole grain breads, making them little more than empty calories. As long as your toast is on the right side of things, it can be a healthy component of the dish.
Avocado and toast are the two essential ingredients, but few people stop there, as evidenced by the fact that a Google search for "avocado toast recipe" returns roughly 852,000 results.
We can't cover each ingredient in these recipes, but we'll hit the most popular ones.
Seasonings such as pepper, salt, garlic power, red pepper flakes, all-purpose seasoning, etc. are all fine in moderation. Toss a couple of shakes on the toast for added flavor and you're good to go.
Oils, such as olive oil, are also a popular addition. Olive oil is high in healthy fat, but it's best used sparingly. Add a drizzle if you'd like, but don't go overboard.
Eggs can be a good addition if you're looking to make your snack heftier and more filling. They add a nice punch of protein, but they also bring in another significant portion of fat.
Salmon is an awesome source of lean protein. But be careful with lox (smoked salmon), since a single serving contains almost the entire amount of your daily recommended sodium.
Meats like bacon add a hefty amount of fat and sodium, so it's probably best to use them once in a while as a treat rather than as an everyday thing.
Any sort of sliced up vegetable is a great, healthy way to bulk up your avocado toast without adding many calories.
So, is avocado toast healthy? In most cases, yes. It may be higher in fat and calories than a simple piece of fruit, but it should also be able to keep you fuller longer. Avocado toast also contains a huge number of useful nutrients and antioxidants (especially when made on whole grain bread). However, it is possible to go overboard with avocado toast. If you find yourself consuming more than a couple of slices a day, and your avocado is usually served on white bread along with additions like olive oil, you may be veering into an area where the dish is doing more harm than good. But as always, much of it depends on your personal calorie needs and your own diet and wellness goals.