Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
There are several choices for which shell to wrap around your taco. What’s important is it’s more than a taste decision: tortilla nutrients differ significantly.
It’s easy to make fun of all the consumer choices in food that are available in modern society. And while it’s true our grocery aisles, restaurant options and even what you can find on taco catering menus are full of an almost infinite number of selections, this is nothing new.
How? Note that all the heirloom varieties of produce were the choices our great grandparents had in their own gardens and at farm stands. Much of the trade that involving ships and desert caravans for millennia were about expanding food (and spice) choices.
An example is how when Jewish people were expelled from Spain many came to the New World to settle into Mexico (“New Spain” as it was then called). Already the indigenous people had corn tortillas, however the new arrivals considered corn to be non-kosher. They improvised with unleavened, water-based dough that could be pressed to look a lot like the corn cakes they rejected. The flour tortilla was born.
Today we have both corn and flour/wheat tortillas available, but there is variety within those as well with gluten-free and whole-wheat flour versions. While satisfying everyone’s taste at a fiesta might be the stuff of nightmares for mobile taco cart catering companies, we can leave that to them as we make our own choices as diners. Here are some things to think about when making a selection:
Corn tortilla – This is the original. According to Prevention magazine, a corn tortilla is preferable to the flour variety on several points: lower in calories, lower in fat (overall and saturated), more than twice the fiber, one-quarter the sugar, and three times the magnesium. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, corn tortillas are very low in salt
Flour tortilla – Flour tortillas are the taste preference for many, which taco caterers know well. While their corn counterparts might win on some nutrition points, it’s not a slam-dunk. Flour tortillas have about 50% more protein, about twice the calcium (due to enriched flour) and about three times the iron.
Whole-wheat tortilla – The whole grain tortilla looks and tastes different from its refined flour cousin. In terms of nutrients, it has about one-third the calories, one-fifth the fat, and it features a lower glycemic index (i.e., it digests more slowly).
Gluten free tortilla – Yes, it’s possible to get these. They are a little more challenging to make at home but many of the tortilla manufacturers carry a gluten-free line. Note that corn tortillas are naturally gluten free.
Keep in mind the nutritional makeup of each type of tortilla is less than half the story. Whether you choose creams and cheeses, tomato salsas and avocadoes, or tofu versus beef, each has nutritional impact. Oh – and how much you hang out at the margarita bar can be meaningful as well.