Health Benefits of Mexican Foods

Avoid calorie-laden ingredients, such as full-fat Mexican cheeses and sour cream, and load up on nutrient-packed foods like tomatillos, limes and avocados instead.

Photo By: Kippy Lanker

Photo By: Robyn Mac

Photo By: Matt Armendariz

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Beans

Beans are one of the best sources of soluble fiber (which keeps you feeling full and helps lower cholesterol), plus they’re a great way to get protein and iron. Use them to fill up tacos and burritos, or try them in this easy layered bean casserole.

 

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

Get the Recipe: Mexican Layered Bean Casserole

Cumin

This aromatic seed contains cuminaldehyde, a phytochemical with antibacterial properties and a lot of iron — just 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds delivers 22 percent of the daily value.

Tomatillos

Tarter and firmer than tomatoes, these green orbs deliver vitamins C and K and are super-low in calories (1/2 cup of them delivers just 20 calories). Try them grilled, piled on top of hearty chicken tostadas.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Chicken Tostadas al Carbon with Grilled Tomatillos and Queso Fresco

Corn

Corn is a whole grain and, as such, delivers a bunch of fiber — just 1 ear of corn delivers 4 grams of fiber. Even corn tortillas (which are basically cornmeal and water) deliver way more fiber than flour tortillas. Ellie Krieger uses them for added texture in her fish tacos.

Get the Recipe: Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder contains compounds called flavanols that are linked to heart and brain health. Natural cocoa powder is richer in flavanols than Dutch-processed and so should be your go-to when you're eating chocolate or making mole.

Avocado

Avocados are a creamy and delicious way to get heart-healthy monounsaturated fats in your diet. Dice them onto chili, add slices onto a breakfast taco or mash some onto whole-grain toast. They make a fresh and creamy addition to our Food Network Kitchen's chipotle shrimp tacos.

Get the Recipe: Chipotle Shrimp Taco with Avocado Salsa Verde

Jalapenos

Jalapenos (and all other hot chili peppers) get their heat from capsaicin, a compound that can help lower your cholesterol and speed up your metabolism. If you want to cut the heat, just scrape out the seeds before using. A little goes a long way, as you'll find in this recipe for lightened-up enchiladas.

Get the Recipe: Light Chicken Enchiladas

Pepitas

High in antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, pepitas are also a good source of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. They also give you a good amount of protein (9 grams per 1/4 cup).

Limes

Tart green limes are an excellent source of immunity-boosting vitamin C and also have an antibacterial effect. Try using the tart juice to add a fresh zing to tacos, like Ellie's tacos that are topped with avocado-lime salsa.

Get the Recipe: Chili-Rubbed Steak Tacos

Next Up

Traditional Mexican Recipes

Beyond tacos and tostadas: true south-of-the-border fare