What do quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and chimichangas have in common? These foods share one main ingredient — tortillas.
While Mexican dishes have become extremely popular in America, these spicy cuisines consisting of this wheat flatbread originally manifested in Mexico.
This short list of native ingredients isn’t just due to preference. As history has it, before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, meat was a rare find. This had the natives of the country relying on a diet consisting of corn and beans. The corn was able to be dried and ground to create the main ingredient we know and love today called tortillas.
So, what exactly are these delicious Mexican-native staples? This article will discuss:
There are two types of tortillas found in restaurants and grocery stores all over the country today — wheat flour tortillas and corn tortillas. While corn tortillas may have started off as the most common corn tortilla to exist, once it was discovered that wheat flour could provide a solid tortilla base, the game was changed. Both are equally as popular yet come from two different sources. Corn tortillas are a type of thin flatbread made from ground maize and wheat flour tortillas are made from finely ground wheat flour.
One of the main reasons for tortillas popularity in different dishes is due to their versatility. Tortillas are a type of flatbread that can be eaten hot or cold and used in several different dishes.
Flour tortillas are often times softer and a more pliable option of the two. Not to say corn tortillas don’t have similar features, however they provide a more chewy texture in comparison to flour tortillas. They both can be served soft or hard and make great chips once they’ve sat out for a bit and take on a harder, crunchier texture.
The macronutrients of tortillas vary greatly on whether you make them at home, buy them pre-packaged in the grocery store or order them in restaurants. Your typical corn tortilla is about 62 total calories for one ounce (or 29 grams) including 12 grams of net carbohydrates, one gram of fat, two grams of fiber and two grams of protein.
Wheat flour tortillas are relatively similar, providing a total of 85 calories per one ounce (or 29 grams) including 14 grams of net carbs, two grams of fat, two grams of protein and less than one gram of fiber.
With flour and corn tortillas sitting around 12-15 grams of net carbohydrates per ounce, it would be hard to have more than one small tortilla, if that. When you think about it, one ounce is barely anything at all and would be rather hard to feel satiated or full with. However, if you really wanted to have tortillas while following a low carb or keto diet, this amount would be the way to go.
The keto diet recommends that your daily intake of carbs be anywhere between 20 and 50 grams. This means that having over two ounces worth of tortilla could possibly kick you out of ketosis or over your carb limit for the day.
However, there are ways its possible to consume your favorite mexican dishes on a low carb or keto diet. Besides substituting tortillas with a low carb alternative, active individuals have the opportunity to follow a targeted keto diet (TKD) or cyclical keto diet (CKD).
How do these diets differ from the standard ketogenic diet?
The TKD is a type of keto diet that caters to more active individuals, allowing for an extra 25-50 grams of carbs up to 60 minutes before and after their workout window. The CKD, on the other hand, is meant for athletes that train at such high intensity that their body absolutely requires additional carbs in order to get that glycogen back to their muscles.
The CKD follows a standard ketogenic diet five days of the week, whereas the other two days (or 24-48 hours) follow a high carb, low fat ratio where the individual can consume anywhere from 400 to 600 carbs within this carb loading period.
While tortillas may not be the best option for individuals following a low carb or keto diet, you may want to steer clear of them in general, unless you’re making them yourself. While the glycemic index of corn tortillas can actually sit considerably low (around 52 on a scale of 100), pre-packaged flour tortillas can have some ingredients that could be damaging to your health.
Sure, some corn tortillas made in the comfort of your home may have a lower glycemic index, that’s not the case for all tortillas. Some of the pre-packaged tortillas you see today in your local grocery store contain harmful substances such as enriched bleached white flour, vegetable shortening, corn starch, wheat starch, cellulose gum, guar gum, dough conditioners and sorbic acid. The body processes enriched bleached white flour just like sugar, creating a rapid increase in blood sugar, therefore activating a strong insulin response. This creates a burst of sugar into your cells, doing more harm than good. This can be avoided by choosing a low carb flour alternative.
You may also want to avoid flour tortillas if you are gluten intolerant. Being made directly from wheat grounds, flour tortillas are definitely not gluten-free. Wondering if you’re gluten intolerant? Some symptoms of this condition include bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, skin issues, fatigue, depression, anemia, anxiety and more.
So Are Tortillas Low Carb or Keto Friendly?
While a one ounce serving of tortillas will not necessarily kick you out of ketosis, chances are most tortillas you buy will be a much larger serving than one ounce in the first place. If you were to consume an authentic corn or flour tortilla, making them at home would be your best bet. Even in the scenario of homemade tortillas, one tortilla (or about 50 grams) could contain up to 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving. This amount of carbs uses up more than half of your carb intake allowed while on the keto diet, putting you at risk for getting kicked out of ketosis.
It’s important to remember that there will most likely be hidden carbs distributed in your diet throughout the day as well, whether you recognize them or not.
The best way to still include tortillas into your diet is either make your own low carb tortilla alternatives, or include them into your diet if — and only if — you are following a TKD or CKD. This will allow a window of high carb intake while still following the ketogenic diet guidelines.
When it comes to this staple Mexican food, tortillas are not low carb or keto friendly.