This week, letís take a look at a question that is pondered by those of us wanting to eat healthy foods. Which is healthier, flour tortillas or corn tortillas? This question seems simple, but letís see if I can complicate this before we dive into a real answer.
First, let me get on my soap box about grains in general. Most grains are highly inflammatory and depending on the type of grains you eat, they can cause digestive problems and weight gain. Most of us love baked goods in their many forms. Unfortunately, breads, pasta, and many other sugary baked delights are just not that healthy, so eat grains in food products in moderation or not at all.
Originally, tortillas were made from maize. Somewhere along the road, wheat became easier to grow and more prolific adding flour to the many tortillas that became available.
Is corn grain, seed or a vegetable? By definition, dried seed corn is considered a seed, but in general, the corn we eat most often is complete with bran, germ and endosperm placing it in a whole grain category. Sweet corn is considered a vegetable and depending on who you ask, it is a vegetable. See I told you I could make this subject complicated.
The good or bad news, which depends on how you look at it, is flour tortillas are a grain-based product, so no confusion with this food item. Thatís not to say you canít buy gluten free, low-fat flour tortillas so this could be good news for some. The taste of gluten free, low-fat flour tortillas, on the other hand, may not be for everyone.
So at this point, how do we decide which is the best choice for your next taco feed or burrito feast?
Here are eight factors comparing corn over flour tortillas:
• Corn tortillas have fewer calories than flour.
• Flour tortillas have much more protein than corn.
• Flour tortillas have more fat content than corn.
• Both corn and flour tortillas are high in carbohydrates.
• Corn tortillas are high in insoluble fiber.
• Flour tortillas have more calcium and iron than corn.
• Corn tortillas are higher in magnesium than flour.
• Corn tortillas do have phosphorus content.
Both corn and flour tortillas have a relatively small delivery of good macro nutrients, making their nutrition value low. In other words, they are both poor calorie choices over say arugula or baby spinach. Whole-grain flour tortillas are more comparable to corn when comparing fiber. Refined grains that are used to make most flour based products are lacking in nutrients and fiber.
Many brands of tortillas are hydrolyzed during the dough preparation process, making both corn and flour products unhealthy. It is always best to read the labels and buy certified organic whole-grain tortillas and try to stay away from refined highly processed products.
The bottom line on corn vs. flour tortillas is this. From a healthy nutrition point of view, corn is a better choice purely from a nutritional perspective. On the other hand, it comes down to taste, preference, brand and moderation. If you love wrapping your arugula, feta, walnut and tomato mix in a whole-grain organic flour tortilla once in a while, it is likely your health will not suffer. So there you have it, a pretty basic look at which way to go between corn or flour tortillas.
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Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.