Eat healthy Tex-Mex: Blue corn has more nutrients, experts say

Believe it or not, eating tacos and other Tex-Mex favorites can be good for you when you have the right ingredients.

SAN ANTONIO - They don't look like any other tortilla, and they don't taste the same either.

“It’s a very, very deep blue; the color of the tortillas and the chips," Sanitary Tortilla Company owner Luis Garcia said.

The company has been in business in San Antonio for more than 90 years, and makes a variety of corn products. It turns out that blue corn even has health benefits.

"[They have] minerals, antioxidants and protein. It's sweeter," Garcia said.

While there is high demand for corn with this lesser-known pigment, the Sanitary Tortilla Company can't make blue corn tortillas, or blue tortilla chips, every day.

The process for making blue corn tortillas is about the same as the traditional white or yellow, but there's simply not enough blue corn to go around.

“Every day, more and more chefs from different restaurants and hotels ask about the blue corn. It’s very rare. The market is very high. You have to pay maybe three or four times more than the regular corn," Garcia said.

Blue corn is mostly grown in New Mexico, and when you can get it, experts say blue corn is the healthiest option when it comes to tortillas and tortilla chips.

Garcia said it's likely to have originated in Peru.

"The color that makes blue corn blue is actually a pigment called an anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant. So, that’s a benefit," Libby Higham, a dietitian with JTA Wellness said. "Some people would agree that the blue chip has a little bit more protein and is a little bit more sensitive to rising glucose numbers."

Opting for blue corn chips could be an easy way to work more nutrients into your diet. Despite some benefits, including blue corn containing more fiber, Higham said you should enjoy them in moderation.

"When you cut it down and fry it as a corn chip, it’s still a corn chip," she said.

In fact, consuming chips is one reason people could consume too many calories when eating Tex-Mex food.

"We want to make sure that we are being mindful of our portions. Here in the United States we see huge portions, and it starts with the chips that come on the table," Higham said.

To cut calories and still enjoy some of your Tex-Mex favorites, Higham offered the following advice:

 
  • Choose guacamole, not queso
  • Order corn tortillas, not flour
  • Eat black or pinto beans, not refried beans
  • Order brown rice, not white rice

An advantage of eating Tex-Mex is that it can also be rich in protein, with fajitas and beans, for example.

This recipe for healthy "Cheesy Crock-Pot Nachos" from JTA Wellness could allow you to enjoy some of your favorite Tex-Mex flavors, while not crushing your calorie count for the day.

Cheesy Crock-Pot Nachos

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup green enchilada sauce (or any you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Optional Toppings: Salsa, black olives, tomatoes, avocado, green or red onions, jalapenos, etc.

Directions:

  1. Add chicken, beans, garlic, enchilada sauce, cumin, chili powder, oregano, black pepper and salt to a crockpot. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Before serving, remove chicken breasts from crockpot, shred using two forks, and return to the pot to keep warm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a cutting board, stack tortillas on top of each other and slice into 6 pieces. Arrange tortillas in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and bake for 10-12 minutes, until toasty and golden brown.
  3. Remove chips from the oven, top with shredded cheese, and return to the oven for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is gooey and melted. Remove from the oven and portion onto 6 plates. Top each helping of nachos with shredded chicken and enjoy with the toppings of your choice.

This recipe makes six servings. 

© 2017 KENS-TV


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