Eating guacomole and staying healthy
April 18, 2010 3:55 PM   Subscribe

A few questions about guacamole and health.

What's a healthy amount of guacamole (assume a simple recipe made with lime juice and salt) and chips for a 190 lb pound male in good physical condition to eat on a daily basis?

If said male wanted to eat guacamole and chips every day, what other things should he eat to balance out the previously mentioned items.

How long could a person live off of just guacamole and chips? What sort of health problems would occur if a person did do this? How long would it take for health problems to show up and in what order would they appear?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
There is hardly any protein in guacamole or chips, so you'd need to get it elsewhere. You'd also need fiber from another source. Also, as liketitanic said, there are about 35 grams of fat in a serving of avocado and about 6 in a serving of tortilla chips, so you'd need to go low to no fat the rest of the day. And between the salt you plan to put in the guac (which is totally unnecessary, by the way) and the salt in the chips you'd need to watch your sodium intake with everything else.

No, you cannot live off of guac and chips alone. Not enough protein or fiber.
posted by amro at 4:06 PM on April 18, 2010

Oh, and unless you work out a lot, you'll probably gain weight from all that fat. You're only supposed to have something like 20-25 grams a day I believe.
posted by amro at 4:08 PM on April 18, 2010

Amro, I'm not sure where you got the 20-25 g of fat figure. That seems very low. When I googled the figures I was able to find for a standard 2000-calorie diet were in the 65 g range.

I don't think one serving (say an avocado's worth?) of guacamole and chips is the worst thing to eat every day, since avocados are pretty healthy. There is not a lot of protein, but an avocado does have a reasonable amount of fiber in it. You would just want to keep the rest of the reasonably low-fat to balance out the high-fat avocado and tortilla chips. Lots of vegetables and lean protein.

I'm not a nutritionist, so I don't know what health problems would show up first if that's ALL someone ate, but I would be worried about the salt and your blood pressure.
posted by SoftRain at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

amro, it's not fat that makes you fat. 20-25g of fat is ridiculously low. Maybe you are thinking 20-25% of your daily calories should come from fat?

Beyond that, I think the fat in the chips (assuming they're fried) is the greater issue. Avocados are healthy. You would definitely have some nutritional deficiencies if you only ate guac and chips. Take a look at the nutritional completeness of avocados, linked above.
posted by smalls at 4:37 PM on April 18, 2010

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Nutrition Analysis Tool is a good resource for this sort of question. Suppose that you ate one recipe of Alton Brown's guacamole per day, including tomatoes, onion, and lime juice, plus, say, four ounces of tortilla chips: you'd end up with good amounts of many nutrients, but only a third as much protein as you need. Plenty of fiber at 150% of the RDA. Serious deficiency in calcium eventually, at only 26% of the RDA. Just the right amount of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and some other vitamins. You could last quite a while on such a diet.
posted by Ery at 4:37 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops, try this link, instead, for the Nutrition Analysis Tool. Sorry.
posted by Ery at 4:38 PM on April 18, 2010

If said 190 pound male was salt-sensitive, the sodium in even a daily single serving of guac and chips could potentially be a problem.
posted by maudlin at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2010

just eat them until you feel like you want to eat something else. then eat that. I'm sure you'll be fine.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

We are talking real, honest-to-goodness, made-from scratch guacamole here, right? Not some green processed stuff vacuum-packed into a plastic container? Yes?

I'd be more concerned about what you are eating said guacamole with rather than the guacamole itself.

I will not begrudge you the joy of daily guacamole, but I would caution you to think about the delivery vehicle. And to add more fiber and protein to your diet. Otherwise, buen provecho!
posted by ambrosia at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2010

Sounds as though you're eating mashed avocado with citrus juice instead of guacamole. If you added some pico de gallo ( chopped tomato, chilis, onion and a bit of squished garlic), you'd get more vitamins and fiber, though not enough to substitute for a more balanced meal. you could avoid some of the bad stuff by eating it wrapped in a heated up tortilla , maybe with some beans, or on a sandwich that has some turkey or other meat. I don't think I've really answered your questions, but I think we've all been schooled in what constitutes a good diet over the years, and that what matters more is how much attention you pay to your broader eating habits. Note that I not a nutricionist.
posted by path at 5:24 PM on April 18, 2010

If you're anything like me, it would take way more than a single "serving" of chips to finish off an entire avocado's worth of guac. I, uh, might know someone who has subsisted on chips and guac for a day or two at a time, so it wouldn't kill you immediately. But in addition to all the fat (good from the guac and bad from the chips), there is a TON of sodium in all of those chips.

To answer your health questions:

- The ridiculous amounts of sodium could lead to high blood pressure and/or kidney problems. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart failure, and a host of other life-threatening issues. Short term, it'll probably make you feel bloated as you retain water.
- The high fat would certainly lead to overweight unless you're exercising an awful lot. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, joint problems, and lots of other bad things you've probably heard about a million times.
- The high saturated fat content could also lead to high cholesterol levels in your blood, which again can cause coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, etc.
- I haven't checked the nutrition data, but if the low calcium report above is true you could end up with osteoporosis.
- Eating just ANY one or two things and nothing else is unhealthy in the long term, even if you picked the healthiest thing in the world to eat (and chips and guac are unfortunately not even in the running for that prize.) You need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and probably other things science hasn't discovered yet to keep your body in tip-top shape, so eating a variety of foods is the best way to make sure you're not missing out on anything important.

These are all long-term consequences (except for the bloating), so if there's a sale on avocados I don't think you're going to drop dead over the weekend from over-indulging. But don't make a habit of it.
posted by vytae at 5:25 PM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: The real problem would be the chips, not the guacamole. If you move to baked rather than fried, that would make a big difference. As various people said above, the fat in avocado is good fat (monounsaturated, like in olive oil), and there are way worse things you could eat.

She says, just having scarfed down half an avocado on a sandwich...
posted by kestrel251 at 5:29 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could save some fat calories by eating Guiltless Gourmet tortilla chips. They're baked instead of fried, about half the fat of regular chips, and yummy. Especially the Spicy Black Bean flavor.

The diet you propose would be lacking in niacin, which could leave you susceptible to pellegra.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:37 PM on April 18, 2010

I don't know about potential bad effects, but I just wanted to add in some potential good that might come from such a plan. When I moved to the west coast, it was the first time I'd ever had readily accessible avocados, and so inexpensively. I went a little overboard and started eating a couple of avocados every single day. It went on for weeks, maybe even months. (I never did get sick of them, and still eat a few a week, more when they're on sale.) Anyway, I had the clearest, healthiest skin I have ever had in my life! I personally recommend the guacamole diet.
posted by adiabat at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Totally fantastic guacamole delivery vehicle: a crispy taco shell. A guacamole taco is a lot like guacamole and chips, but with less chip. I highly recommend it, and wish I had one right now.
posted by redfoxtail at 5:50 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one thing that would help balance that diet out would be a good-sized serving of beans and rice. That'd give you a complete protein, some fiber and B-vitamins. And some steamed kale would give you some calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid.

The World's Healthiest Foods is a great site for nutrition info on the best stuff you can eat if you are planning to limit your food variety for whatever reason.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:50 PM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Avocados are nutritious and eating moderate amounts of them is healthy. Your other questions are silly.
posted by whiskeyspider at 5:57 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds like a fun question! Let me break out my old textbook.... (Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 8th ed, Rolfes/Pinna/Whitney, Wadsworth 2009).

Details depend on who you are. Which I see is a 38 year old male. Let's assume a 2000 calorie diet. That should be reasonable.

Don't see stats for guacamole. Let's go with California avocado, w/o skin or pit: 1 item is 170 gm and 284 calories. Let's assume you eat, say, 5 of these a day. I will compare the value of 5 avocados with 2008 USRDAs.

Protein: 15gm of 56gm
Carb: 75gm
Fat: 130gm, mostly monounsaturated vs NTE ~70gm
Fiber: 60gm, plenty
Cholesterol: 0 gm, no problem
Ca: 110mg of 3gm (!)
Fe: 5mg of 8mg
Mg: 245mg of 420mg
K: 4.3gm, plenty
Na: 70mg, no problem
Zn: 5.6mg of of 11mg
Thiamine: 0.6mg of 1.2mg
Vit A: 520mcg of 900mcg
Vit E: 16mg of 15mg
Riboflavin: 1.2mg of 1.3mg
Niacin: 16mg of 16mg
B6: 2.4mg of 1.3mg
Folate: 525mcg of 400mcg
Vit C: 75mg of 90mg
B12: nada of 2.4mcg
Selenium: 5mcg of 55mcg

Of those, there's a few that I wouldn't worry about. RDAs are designed to give a lot of breathing room. First of all, 38 year old healthy men never have problems with Fe. 5mg is probably enough. Now, protein requirements are typically what's left over-- according to current (medical/nutritional) thought, US Americans get way so much more protein than they need, but it doesn't really matter. If you were in a hospital bed unable to eat or drink, we'd be giving you maybe 32 gm of protein, and that'd be enough, so this isn't enough protein, but not by as much as it looks. As an added aside, yes, avocados are a complete protein source, meaning that they supply every amino acid that you can't synthesize. Vitamin A is probably sufficient, as is Vitamin C. That Mg level isn't as bad as it looks, as long as you're healthy and not drinking. It's just a bit lower than is normal for US Americans.

So, really, with just 5 avocados a day, you're running into the same problems that a not-very-careful vegan might run into. Not enough protein. Not enough B vitamins. Not enough calcium. Let's add the chips in and see what happens.

Okay, so 100gm of plain (unsalted) tortilla chips would give you 568 calories, which gets you to about 2k. I'm just going to do the relevant stuff here:

Protein: 8gm
Calcium: Nada
Fe: 1.6mg
Mg: 75mg
Na: 600mg
Zn: 1.7mg
Riboflavin: 0.2mg
Niacin: 1.5mg
B6: 0.32mg
Folate: 12mcg
B12: Nada

So, you're still short on protein. Calcium and B12 are pretty much your only other problems. So what's going to happen?

B12: Deficiencies in the absence of underlying disease are rare. Careless vegans develop symptoms after YEARS. Unfortunately, symptoms are similar to dementia. Don't worry, they're reversible. A lot of people are going to just tell you that supplements and fortifications aren't worth anything, but in this case, it's not really true. Vegans have been getting enough B12 from fortified soy and from vitamin supplements. So this is not an insurmountable obstacle.

Calcium: Well, at this level of calcium intake, your bones really are going to leech away, and you're likely to get osteoporosis very early. Again, this is a very long-term process. But there's good news-- once again, supplementation has proven effective at delaying or preventing osteoporosis. If you add a little bit of dairy to your diet, maybe some sour cream, you could probably avoid this problem entirely.

Protein: Well, you're going to starve. After a few years, you're going to look like one of those kids with the bloated bellies. But, it's really pretty easy to get around this. You're not THAT short of protein. And if there's one area where supplements are FINE FINE FINE, it's protein. Mix a little protein powder into your guacamole.

Okay, so I just need to talk a little bit about a few other things. One is that there is a LOT of argument about what is proper nutrition. I'm coming at this from the perspective of USRDAs. There are plenty of people who disagree. (Look at all of the protein-powders you can buy. Look at people arguing about low-fat versus high-carb.)

Let's talk about your fat consumption for a second. In the US, we've typically been arguing for lower dietary fat. But at the same time that dietary fat intake has declined, we've achieved greater sophistication in understanding how differences in kinds of fat affect health. Now, your guacamole-and-chips diet looks pretty awful in terms of fat, but as other posters have mentioned, avocados are actually associated with GOOD cardiac outcomes (whereas a high-fat diet, in general, is associated with poor cardiac outcomes), and what's more, there is a lot of argument about the proper amount of fat in a diet.

Another thing I want to talk about is salt. Believe it or not, with the diet I mentioned above, you are not actually getting enough salt. That's because those are UNSALTED tortilla chips. You're probably going to be eating salted tortilla chips, and you may be putting salt in your guacamole as well. That's okay. You need about 1500mg of salt a day. Typical recommendations are for people to not exceed 3000mg of salt, but everybody does, and that's in the context of a typical, low potassium diet. You, however, are on a pretty high potassium diet. Really, when you eat too much salt, you're probably just going to get thirsty and go to the bathroom a lot, and when you don't eat enough, you're not going to get thirsty.

So, of course, no, I wouldn't recommend restricting yourself to the "chips and guacamole" diet. But, if you do decide to pursue it, along with calcium and B12 supplementation, I don't have any dire predictions for your health. I think you'll be fine, as long as you re-evaluate the diet as your health changes.
posted by nathan v at 8:34 PM on April 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

Excellent guacamole delivery vehicle: corn tortillas baked or toasted until they're crispy. A lot less salt and fat than your average tortilla chips, and very tasty, to boot!
posted by syzygy at 1:36 AM on April 19, 2010

I like path's idea of adding tomatoes, chilis, garlic, and onion. I think you'll prefer it too.

Also, as others have said, the chips are probably the least healthy part of this. If I were you, I'd eat the guacamole with a couple corn tortillas heated in a dry skillet until soft. This is more traditional in places where guacamole is traditionally eaten.

Corn tortillas are delicious, and they smell amazing too. Most people seem not to be aware that they should be heated before serving, and I think that's what leads people to suggest baked chips or other substitutes.
posted by chrchr at 1:44 AM on April 19, 2010

Chips are going to add a lot of fat that you don't need. If you're going to do it I say go for the absolute best guacamole delivery method. A spoon.
posted by JackarypQQ at 4:07 AM on April 19, 2010

Healthy amount of guac: The amount of guacamole from 2 small to medium avocados.

Healthy amount of chips: The amount of chips required to eat all the guacamole.

To balance out guacamole consumption: consume 6 whole eggs (any style) at breakfast with spinach and 2 slices whole-wheat toast (buttered) and 4 slices organic, hand fed, heritage bacon. Take 1 pound of beefsteak at lunchtime (with garden salad), and 1 large garden salad at dinner (salad sauce optional). Snack before bedtime: as much ice cream as you can stand.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:49 AM on April 19, 2010

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