Tortilla for Mexicans is like bread. It is a food that doubles as plate and spoon, part of the daily meal, regardless of the consumer’s economic status. Tortillas will always be on the table as a loyal companion to many dishes or as the main ingredient of others. It is a nutritious and delicious icon of Mexican identity.
The history of tortillas has been dated back to thousands of years ago, with the first attempts to domesticate maize and perfect the process of nixtamalization, in which the corn or maize is soaked in an alkaline solution. Here in Mexico, it is done with limewater.
This process enhances the maize’s flavor and nutritional value. It also makes kernels easier to ground. Since well before the arrival of the Spanish, tortillas have been a part of the diet of Mexicans.
In recent years, a trend against carbs has taken hold in Mexico, with many people removing tortillas from their daily meals. That being said, tortillas can still be part of daily diets, so long as the amount eaten is moderated. If they are fried or covered in cream or other foods, it would of course add more calories to the meal.
Tortillas, however, provide minerals, as well as protein, dietary fiber, carbohydrates and energy. According to the Mexican Office of the Federal Prosecutor for the Consumer (PROFECO), one regular size corn tortilla of approximately 6” in diameter and 1.3 ounces has:
Protein 1.9 to 2.5 g
Dietary fiber 1.2 to 1.4 g
Carbohydrates 15 to 17 g
Energy 72 to 78.4 kcal
Phosphorus 64 to 91 mg
Calcium 34.3 to 73.5 mg
Magnesium 21 to 23 mg
Potassium 36.8 to 64.8 mg
With all this information we may determine that tortillas can be included in a balanced diet, and even be considered as part of the “cereal group,” as an equivalent of rice, pasta, bread and potato. Again, it is important to remember that they should be consumed in moderation, and preferably not fried.
Tortillas can be used as main ingredients in dishes like tortilla soup and chilaquiles. They can also be the base for many dishes like traditional tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. With tortillas, the options are endless, and it’s up to you to discover the delicious ways to eat them. One very simple and traditional way is to grab a hot and freshly made tortilla, sprinkle it with some salt, roll it up and enjoy. That’s all you need!