June 28, 2022
  • June 28, 2022

Corn vs. Flour Tortilla: Which One Is Healthier?

By on June 1, 2021 0 128 Views
Corn vs. flour tortilla: What’s the difference?

Experts are telling you to eat more non-starchy veggies, like tomatoes; focus on healthy fats, like in avocados; and try (at least occasionally) to use beans in place of meat.

A tortilla is basically a thin, soft flatbread traditionally based on corn or wheat. They originated in Mexico, and have been a staple for hundreds of years.

Tortillas come in a variety of sizes, which you’ll ideally pick based on your culinary need. In other words, a footlong tortilla is way too big to make a tidy, hand-held street taco.

And while certain recipes work best with corn tortillas, some are better matches for flour tortillas, and still others are interchangeable.

Culinary preference aside, is one type of tortilla healthier than the other? Let’s find out.

What is a corn tortilla?

It’s not like using corn straight from the cob.

“Raw, ground corn is treated with limewater (calcium hydroxide, or cal), which softens the corn and gives the masa harina—and ultimately the tortillas—a distinct, savory flavor,” says Wilson.

The tortillas are typically made by combining masa harina (finely ground cornmeal) with warm water and sometimes salt, forming the mixture into dough, and then portioning into individual balls. The masa dough balls are then pressed into tortillas, ideally using a tortilla press.

The final step is cooking the tortilla in a hot, cast iron pan or comal (griddle) until golden brown and puffy, no more than a couple of minutes per side.

Corn tortillas are typically used for making street tacos, traditional tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, and chilaquiles. They can also be fried for making taco shells or tortilla chips.

What is a flour tortilla?

The tortillas are often made by combining flour, warm water, vegetable oil (or shortening or lard), salt, and sometimes a bit of baking powder.

It involves kneading the ingredients into a smooth dough, portioning the dough into individual testales (small disks), and rolling out the disks into individual tortillas. The tortillas are quickly cooked in a hot, cast iron pan or comal (griddle) until golden brown in spots, which takes just one minute (or less) per side.

Flour tortillas are typically used for making burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, flautas, and Tex Mex-style soft tacos.

Corn vs. flour tortilla: Nutrition facts

Both types of tortillas offer a variety of nutrients. Based on an equal weight, here’s how their nutrition stacks up. Putting this info into practice, remember that you usually won’t be eating equivalent amounts.

Popular sizes for corn tortillas are five to six inches for tacos (about 1 ounce); flour tortillas are seven to eight inches for soft tacos (about 1.5 to 2 ounces), 10 inches for quesadillas (about 2.5 ounces), or 12 inches for burritos (about 3 to 4 ounces).

Factor size into your selection; the larger the tortilla, the greater the calories. Luckily, you’ll get more nutrients along with those calories, of course.

Corn tortilla

A 1-ounce (28.35 gram) corn tortilla has the following nutrients and daily values (DV):

Standout nutrients in corn tortillas

You’ll find notable amounts of dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, and pantothenic acid in corn tortillas.

In fact, you’ll get about half of your recommended daily dose of magnesium from a 1-ounce corn tortilla.

Thanks to wholesome corn, you’ll find beta carotene, betaine, lutein, and zeaxanthin, among other health-protective antioxidants.

Flour tortilla

A 1-ounce (28.35 gram) flour has the following nutrients and DV:

Standout nutrients in flour tortillas

Wilson points out that the white flour used in traditional flour tortillas is enriched with nutrients.

You’ll find significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, and the B vitamins thiamin and folate in the tortillas.

Since women of childbearing age and non-Hispanic Black women are at risk for an inadequate intake of folate, flour tortillas may be the preferred choice for them to help avoid a deficiency.

Match your tortilla to your diet

That’s because authentic flour tortillas are sometimes made with lard (that’s pig fat, so incompatible with a vegan diet) and they’re based on wheat, which contains gluten.

They tend to have more calories than corn tortillas (although check the nutrition information on the package).

Wilson adds that corn tortillas are low in calories because they’re smaller than a typical flour tortilla too.

Size and texture matters

And if you want to fry up a batch of tortilla chips, Wilson says that “the thick texture of corn tortillas works really well.”

Got high-energy needs? A flour tortilla is your friend.

“You can safely hold a few pounds of food in your hand when it’s wrapped inside of a warm flour tortilla,” she says. “Physically, they’re much larger (up to 24 inches in diameter) and can carry more food.”

How to shop for tortillas

Before plopping a package of tortillas into your shopping cart, here are some things to consider.

Buy based on what you’re cookingDon’t be tricked by color

Sometimes a color is an indicator of healthfulness. But not always.

“Although added vegetables to a favorite food like tortillas may sound ‘healthy,’ check the ingredient list. Oftentimes it’s the last ingredient listed, which indicates there isn’t much of it,” says Wilson.

More often than not, your “veggie” tortillas add little in the way of nutrition and simply offer you a different color.

Factor in wholesomeness

The cornmeal used in corn tortillas is based on the whole corn kernel.

The all-purpose (white) flour often used in flour tortillas doesn’t use the whole wheat kernel—it’s stripped of the germ and bran, which strips away some antioxidant benefits and fiber.

To get whole grain benefits with flour tortillas, look for whole wheat, whole grain, or sprouted whole grain varieties.

In addition to various types, sizes, and colors of corn and flour tortillas, there are nutrient-rich additions. And a growing number of options don’t contain corn or flour at all.

Here are the newest finds you might want to try:

Corn vs. flour tortilla: Which is healthier?

Though there’s an enticing array of tortillas available on the market today, the most popular picks are still traditional corn or (white) flour tortillas.

They both offer a bevy of nutrients, but there is a best overall pick.

Plus, corn tortillas are higher in antioxidant power, considered slightly less processed, and gluten free. They’re the way to go if these are important attributes for you.

“Although, because [corn tortillas] are smaller, the ultimate risk is eating several in one sitting,” says Wilson. “So, as always, be mindful of your portions.”

In any case, don’t stress out over tortilla selection.

Whether your preference is a corn or flour tortilla (or both at once), know that you can’t go wrong by stuffing your tortilla of choice with boatloads of veggies, beans, and a luxurious dollop of guacamole.

Can’t get enough tortillas? Check out these tasty recipes:

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