Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner! Whether you have big fiesta plans or will be staying in and laying low, there are plenty of healthful choices to choose from when it comes to Mexican food. In fact, many Mexican dishes are comprised of nutritious plant-based ingredients!
Here are 5 versatile nutrition powerhouses commonly used in Mexican cooking:
Prepared whole or refried, beans serve as excellent centerpieces to tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and tostadas. Not to mention bean dips! Beans are one of those foods that get you the most nutrition bang for your buck–they’re nutrient-rich and inexpensive, especially if you purchase dried beans. Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and the amino acid lysine (which is lacking in grains–there is more to beans + rice being a great combo other than them tasting good together). They’re also rich in potassium and soluble fiber, the kind of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
Cool, creamy avocado. The star of guacamole (drool) and an excellent garnish, topping, and filling to pretty much anything. High in fat, yes. Rich in nourishing monounsaturated fat, yes. Choosing avocado as a fat choice is an excellent decision. Avocados are also loaded with many vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense ultra-tasty superstar in Mexican cooking.
Maize is one of the most ancient foods, serving as a nutritious staple to Mesoamerican people for centuries. Most of today’s corn is heavily processed, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy minimally processed corn in Mexican cuisine like corn tortillas, tortilla chips, posole, and tamales, not to mention whole corn itself. Corn often gets a bad rap due to that fact that it’s mainly carbohydrate. But part of that carbohydrate is fiber, and it also contains a decent amount of protein. Corn is also rich in potassium and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect eye health.
Salsa, pico de gallo, enchilada sauce, all-around garnish. Tomatoes are prolific in Mexican cuisine, and with good reason. They’re incredibly versatile and nutritious whether they are raw or cooked. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C as well as the antioxidant lycopene, which is especially potent in cooked tomatoes.
From bell peppers in sizzling fajitas to jalapenos in spicy salsa, it’s hard to imagine your favorite Mexican dish without at least one kind of pepper. A bell pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange and they are a low-calorie way to add extra color and crunch to just about any dish. Chili peppers get their heat from capsaicin, which has been lauded for many possible beneficial health effects.
Looking for some recipes to incorporate these nutritious foods?
Check out my article for World of Vegan–5 Healthy Vegan Cinco de Mayo Recipes.
What are some of your favorite Cinco recipes or traditions? Share with us in the comments!