Because tostadas are typically fried, many people wonder if tostadas are healthy. The truth may surprise you!
Tostadas can be a very healthy meal, depending on how they are served. Some things you want to consider are how your tostada is cooked and what goes on top of your tostada.
Curious how a fried food like a tostada can be healthy? Keep reading!
We’ll be going over their nutrition benefits, lower fat options, and how to build a healthy meal using tostadas.
What are Tostadas?
Tostadas are tortillas that have been fried or baked until they are toasted and crispy. Tostadas are usually flat but can also be bowl shaped. Tostadas, like tortillas, are used as the base of a food or dish, and are very versatile.
Most tostadas are made from fried corn tortillas but you can also make tostadas from white flour or whole wheat tortillas.
In general when people refer to tostadas they are talking about the tostada as an entree or dish. In this case, the tostada is usually topped with different ingredients like beans, meat, cheese, and vegetables.
What to Eat with Tostadas
Tostadas are great to eat with any number of toppings. You can top tostadas with different proteins like meats, beans, seafood and eggs. You can also put things like rice, vegetables and cheese on tostadas. As well as salsa and other vegetables to top them off.
Tostadas can be very light or very hearty meals depending on how you serve them. Tostadas are also commonly served as a side with soups such as menudo, pozole, or black bean soup. Additionally, ceviche often comes with tostadas as a side.
Are Tostadas Good for You?
The tostada shell itself can be surprisingly nutritious!
Nutrition content of a typical tostada
A single tostada has (1):
Carbs: 8 grams
Protein: 0.8 grams
Fat: 2.9 grams
Vitamin B1: 4% of the daily value
Fiber: 2% of the daily value
Magnesium: 2% of the daily value
Iron: 1% of the daily value
As you can see, a tostada can be a good source of some essential nutrients like magnesium, fiber and iron.
Note that a normal serving of tostadas is 2-3 tostadas. When combined with other toppings like beans, vegetables and meat, tostadas can make a filling and balanced meal!
A Source of Whole Grains
A tostada is primarily made up of corn, a complex carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for our bodies that help maintain our bodily functions and engage in physical activity. It is recommended that most people eat 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day (2).
Since corn tortillas are made from milled corn they are considered a whole grain. Whole grain foods contain fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Eating a diet high in whole grains can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer (3).
As a whole grain, tostadas have a modest amount of fiber that helps contribute to your overall dietary fiber intake. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can help improve your digestive health and maintain good blood sugar levels. (4)
Tostadas are also high in magnesium, which is responsible for nerve system functionality, muscle movement, reducing inflammation and maintaining blood sugar. Low magnesium can increase your chances of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. (5)
There’s also a small amount of iron in tostadas. Iron is essential for producing red cells, hormones and maintaining healthy brain functions. Iron deficiency can lead to conditions like anemia which cause tiredness, weakness, chest pain and headaches. (6)
Although most tostadas are relatively low in fat, some can have large amounts of saturated fat. This would partially depend on how much and what type of oil or fat is used.
Saturated fats especially those from fried food have been linked to increasing LDL and cholesterol levels. These fried foods are linked to higher rates of heart disease and cancer. (7)
The fact that they’re fried doesn’t automatically make tostadas unhealthy, but it is a consideration. People at high risk for heart disease may want to consider alternatives like baked tostadas.
How to make healthy tostadas
It’s important to remember that a tostada is just one part of a larger meal. The overall balance of the meal matters more than one ingredient.
With that in mind, let’s break down the tostada layer by layer to build a healthy, tasty meal!
If you’re concerned about eating fried foods, you can try choosing baked tostadas instead of fried.
You can even try making your own tostadas by baking or air frying them at home. Some people have also tried using whole wheat tortillas for your tostadas. Both of these steps are completely optional, though!
It’s common to first spread a layer of either refried beans or mashed avocado directly onto the tostada. This helps the other toppings stick!
Using mashed avocado can provide a good amount of fiber and heart-healthy fats (8).
Choosing refried beans as a base can also provide fiber! Traditional refried beans are high in saturated fats. You may wannt to opt for refried beans made with olive oil, or stewed beans as an alternative.
You can make your tostadas even healthier by choosing lean proteins like chicken or seafood. Popular options include chicken tinga and ceviche!
Adding large portions of vegetables to your tostada can boost the vitamins and minerals you get. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the toppings can add up to a full serving of vegetables!
Here are some vegetables you can add to your tostadas:
It’s common to finish a tostada with crumbled cheeses, cream sauces or crema. These can add a nice salty or creamy touch to the dish.
Like other sources of saturated fat, people who are concerned about their heart health may wish to use these toppings sparingly.
The Big Picture
So as you can see it is easy to make a healthy meal out of tostadas.
The tostada shell itself is a source of whole grains and can offer some important vitamins and minerals.
This dish can also be made even healthier if topped with other nutritious ingredients like lean proteins and plenty of vegetables.
The truth is, all of your favorite Latin American foods can be healthy as part of an overall balanced eating pattern.
Curious how you can build healthy meals out of your favorite cultural foods? Check out my Balanced Latin Meals Guide.
You’ll learn what major nutrients all of your favorite foods provide and how to construct balanced meals with them. Buen provecho!