10 Mexican Foods With Health Benefits

10 Mexican Foods With Health Benefits

Mexican food is widely known for its flavor and spice, but there is often confusion as to where Mexican food fits into a balanced diet.

It may be common to think that Mexican food should be reserved for special occasions or to think that traditional Mexican meals are incompatible with a healthy diet – but this is mostly due to misconceptions.

In fact, Mexican cultures offer a variety of foods that teach us a lot about nutrition.

This goes beyond staples, too. While basic Mexican ingredients like tomatoes, squash, and corn are usually accepted as healthy, there is a whole additional category of healthy Mexican foods to consider.

Some Mexican ingredients, such as chia seeds, pumpkin, and aloe vera, are very popular in the health food world, but many shoppers may not think they’re Mexican.

Here are 10 Mexican foods with nutritional benefits that you’ll want to stack on your plate.

You might not think of chili peppers as vegetables, but whether you like milder jalapeños or poblanos, all chili peppers can count on eating your vegetables for the day.

Just like other vegetables, chili peppers provide a variety of vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin A (1And the 2).

While whole chile can be a rich source of these vitamins, it can be difficult to eat a large enough serving of the spicier varieties to get a significant amount of micronutrients.

If that’s the case, you can still get the vitamin benefits of hot peppers from milder varieties like poblanos.

Additionally, the compound that makes chili peppers spicy — called capsaicin — has been linked to lower levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol (3).

Beans and other legumes have long been associated with lower LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (4).

Beans may also be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, as they are associated with improved insulin sensitivity and may help reduce the post-meal blood sugar response to foods such as rice when eaten at the same time (5).

While beans are packed with health benefits, many people think that they are just alternatives to meat and may be unsure how to incorporate beans into their diets.

Mexican food can help us incorporate beans on a regular basis, as they are usually served with Mexican meals, either as a side dish or as part of the main course. The simple side of rice and beans is a classic and can add a boost of nutrition to a meal.

Here are 10 easy ways to use beans.

Chia seeds have grown rapidly in popularity in the United States over the past few decades. They are often incorporated into smoothies, desserts, and quick jams.

These tiny seeds are known for their neutral taste and an easy way to add a boost of fiber, calcium, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (6And the 7).

What you may not know is that these seeds are a traditional part of Mexican food. In Mexican cuisine, chia seeds are commonly consumed in beverages, combined with water or fruit juice.

In Mexican food, pumpkin seeds are more than just a fall treat. They can be eaten all year round, with or without their hulls.

In addition to being eaten as a snack, pepitas are often used in sauces (peppian and mole, for example) or as seasoning.

Pepitas are a vegetarian source of protein, iron and zinc. These nutrients are usually associated with animal products, and pepit is a great choice for vegans and vegetarians who may be looking to fill nutrient gaps (8).

Not only are the seeds healthy — squash is a Mexican food and is a rich source of vitamin A, which may promote eye health (9And the 10).

In Mexican cuisine, pumpkin can be used in soup or as a dessert. Candied pumpkin is a traditional dessert that is especially popular on holidays.

Despite the popularity of low-carb diets, corn tortillas are a healthy food derived from Mexican culture.

In addition to providing fiber, a processing technology — called nixtamalization — that turns corn into tortillas increases the amount of calcium in tortillas and reduces levels of compounds that block vitamin B3 absorption (11).

Jicama is a root vegetable usually served fresh with lemon and chili as a refreshing snack.

Researchers are studying jicama for its potential ability to support blood sugar management, thanks to its stature as a high-fiber, low-glycemic root vegetable.12).

This spice is an important ingredient in Mexican desserts and drinks, and researchers are exploring its potential benefits for people with diabetes.

For example, eating cinnamon may lower blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels (13).

The prickly pear cactus, in particular, is popular in Mexican cuisine. Aloe vera paddles can be fried, grilled, or even pickled and served in a salad.

Prickly pear cactus is a rich source of fiber and may have benefits for people with diabetes. Taking prickly pear cactus with meals might reduce the increase in blood sugar that can occur after eating (14).

Unsweetened chocolate made from cocoa beans is a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols (15th).

It may also have a triglyceride-lowering effect (16).

Chocolate is more than just a dessert in Mexican food—it can be used in drinks, as well as in sauces like mole, to provide rich flavor in a variety of meals.

Learn more about the health benefits of chocolate.

While many people may think of Mexican food as a treat that shouldn’t be eaten often, the truth is that Mexican food is a rich and varied cuisine that includes plenty of nutritious foods.

Many of the healthiest food ingredients most popular today in the United States — including pumpkin, chia seeds, aloe vera, and chocolate — actually originated from Mexico.

If you’re not sure how to incorporate these popular ingredients into your routine, you may want to take inspiration from their Mexican origins and try some traditional recipes.

Furthermore, Mexican staples like beans and corn tortillas are highly nutritious and can make a great basis for a balanced diet.

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