The Health Benefits of Mexican Food

by Sara Ipatenco

About Sara Ipatenco

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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Mexican food can include high amounts of saturated fat from cheese and refried beans as well as trans fat from the lard used to make beans and tortillas. If you choose nutritious alternatives, Mexican food has the potential to benefit your health. Knowing what foods provide these benefits will help you make the most nutritious choice the next time you head to a Mexican restaurant.

Fiber

Beans are a staple of Mexican food. Mexican food uses many types of beans, including black and pinto, and each of them supply a healthy amount of fiber. Many people do not get enough fiber in their diets, which can lead to constipation and digestive problems. Whole beans are more nutritious and higher in fiber than refried beans, so opt for burritos or tacos made with steamed beans instead of the fried. A 1/2-cup of beans in your Mexican dinner will supply up to 7 grams of fiber, as well as a healthy amount of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tomatoes, lettuce and salsa supply essential nutrients. Add them to enchiladas or burritos to increase the nutritional content of your Mexican dinner. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which can help fight infection and boost your immunity. Onions are also a healthy source of vitamin C. Lettuce supplies some fiber as well. Avocado is an another common addition to Mexican dishes and is another way to boost the nutrition of your meal as it contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and potassium.

Capsaicin

Spicy peppers, such as jalapenos, are another common ingredient in the salsa, chile and sauces used to create Mexican dishes. Art T. Dash notes in his book, "Secrets to Lowering Cholesterol with Nutrition and Natural Supplements, Safely," that the compound in spicy peppers, called capsaicin, has many benefits for your health. Capsaicin may be beneficial for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This compound can also improve circulation and relieve the congestion associated with the common cold and with allergies. Add salsa or chili to your next Mexican meal and you will be doing something beneficial for your health.

Protein

Many favorite Mexican dishes, such as tacos and enchiladas, may include meat, such as beef, pork, fish, shrimp and chicken. Including lean sources of these meats in your Mexican meal can increase your intake of protein, which you need for energy and to keep your muscles and tissues healthy. A lean beef taco or white meat chicken burrito are common ways to add protein to Mexican dishes. Pass on fried meats, such as those often used for carnitas, because they add unhealthy saturated fats. Cheese is an additional source of protein that also supplies calcium, but go easy on it because it also increases the saturated fat and sodium content of your meal.

References (2)

  • Cooking for Healthy Healing; Linda Page
  • Secrets to Lowering Cholesterol with Nutrition and Natural Supplements, Safely; Art T. Dash

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.