In this brief article we will answer the query, “Are corn tortillas bad for you?” We will explain what corn tortillas are and their nutritional profile. We will also discuss the differences between corn tortillas and flour tortillas.
Are corn tortillas bad for you?
No, corn tortillas are good for you and actually healthy. They are a good alternative when compared with flour tortillas as corn tortillas have low content of calories, are rich in dietary fiber and are low in carbohydrates and fats.
What exactly are corn tortillas?
Corn tortillas are a type of unleavened flatbread that is round and thin and are usually made with ground, dried and sifted masa dough) or “flourless” fresh masa made which has undergone nixtamalization.
Nixtamalization is a process native to Mexico & Central America in which corn is treated with lime or calcium hydroxide, cooked, dried and ground to produce the fresh masa which makes the tortillas. Tortillas are very popular in Mexico and are used to accompany many dishes.
Tortillas have a large surface area and are thin, due to these characteristics they are often baked in high temperature ovens for a very short time. They additionally are not mixed in the same manner as flour tortillas or leavened because they lack gluten forming proteins.
What is the nutritional profile of corn tortillas?
One corn tortilla of about 19 grams can typically has the below nutritional composition as per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Calories: 45
- Total Fat: 0.5g
- Sodium: 40mg
- Carbohydrates: 9g 4% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
- Sugars: 0 g
- Protein: 1g
- Dietary Fiber 1.5g 5% of the RDI
- Sugars 0.21g of the RDI
- Protein 1.37 g of the RDI
What are the differences between corn tortillas and flour tortillas?
Differences in the production process
Corn tortillas are traditionally made by beginning with the nixtamalization process as mentioned earlier on. After the nixtamalization process the corn kernels are stone ground to produce masa or the corn dough.
The dough is shaped and flattened into thin sized discs and baked in a high temperature oven to make the tortillas. However, most store bought corn tortillas are usually made using an industrial mechanism to nixtamalization which makes use of a mill.
Industrially produced corn tortillas can be produced using dehydrated corn flour, or masa harina (dried corn dough) with some wheat flour in it. However, traditionally tortillas are made from 100 percent corn.
The nixtamalization process assists to boost the nutritional profile of the corn tortillas and is a very essential step.
Flour tortillas are on the other hand made from refined wheat flour dough, water, shortening or lad, salt, baking soda and various other ingredients that assist in the development of the gluten. This assists in getting a soft and firm texture in the final flour tortillas.
They have different nutritional profiles
This stems from the fact that different ingredients are used to make corn and flour tortillas. To better capture this, let’s take a look at a comparison between 1 large corn tortilla equivalent to 44 grams and 1 medium flour tortilla equivalent to 45 grams.
|Corn Tortilla||Flour tortilla|
|Carbohydrates||19.6 grams||22.2 grams|
|Proteins||2.51 grams||3.69 grams|
|Fat||1.25 grams||3.6 grams|
|Dietary fiber||2.77 grams||1.58 grams|
|Calcium||35.6 mg||65.7 mg|
|Iron||0.54 mg||1.63 mg|
|Sodium||19.8 mg||331 mg|
What is healthier between corn tortillas and flour tortillas?
Corn tortillas are by far more nutritious when compared with flour tortillas. This is a result of the below reasons:
Corn tortillas are made from whole grains
Corn flour is a cereal grain, if corn tortillas are made from 100 percent corn this means that they have 100 percent whole grains. Whole grains pack more dietary fiber which is heart healthy and good for overall digestive health.
Whole wheat tortillas also do offer some whole grains but the amount is largely dependent on the blend that is used when making them.
Corn tortillas are Gluten free
100 percent corn tortillas also have the added advantage of being gluten free. This is especially beneficial for people who have wheat allergy, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Flour tortillas are made from wheat and it contains gluten which can wreak havoc to people with the above conditions.
Consumption of wheat if you have celiac disease can result in damage to your digestive tract as well as other side effects such as diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
Other FAQs about Corn that you may be interested in.
In this brief article we have answered the query, “Are corn tortillas bad for you?” We have explained what corn tortillas are and their nutritional profile. We have also discussed the differences between corn tortillas and flour tortillas.