Healthy Mexican Food

mexican food sam yehia

Mexican cuisine is primarily a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking with European, especially Spanish, elements added after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the 16th century. The basic staples remain native foods such as corn, beans and chili peppers, but the Europeans introduced a large number of other foods, the most important of which were meat from domesticated animals (beef, pork, chicken, goat and sheep), dairy products (especially cheese) and various herbs and spices.

Squash Blossoms

The orange “Flor de Calabazas,” as squash blossoms are called in Spanish, can be found in more and more gourmet markets and health food stores across the U.S. in the spring and early summer. They’re high in calcium, iron and vitamins C and A, says New York-based nutritionist Kerry Anne Bajaj.

Fried Grasshoppers

In the Southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca, “chapulines,” or fried grasshoppers, are seasonal delicacy and eaten in tacos. The protein-rich critters are high in potassium and have zero sugar.

Pomegranate Seeds

Chef LaLa recollects her Mexican grandparents liberally using pomegranate seeds in their cooking. “Here in the U.S. we’re starting to understand the health benefits of pomegranate, but I really would like to see the seeds, which are a powerful anti-oxidant that protect against heart disease and are proven to lower cholesterol, used more,” she says.

Cacao

Raw chocolate is the key ingredient in Mole Poblano, the classic sauce from Puebla that many consider to be Mexico’s national dish.
A true superfood, “pure cacao is a rich source of anti oxidants and minerals like magnesium and iron,” Bajaj says. “Cacao can boost your energy and immunity, it’s know to be an aphrodisiac and mood booster.”

Chiles

Ancho, mulatto and pasilla, the “trinity” of chilies that, among others, are key ingredients in Mole Poblano, are just a few in the plethora of Mexican peppers that are eaten raw, roasted, pickled and stuffed. Chiles contain capsaicin, which gives them their spicy kick and, among others, helps fight inflammations and clears up mucus and congestion in the nose and lungs, Bajaj says. Red chiles have a high level of immune boosting beta-carotene and vitamin A, and has beneficial effects on insulin levels, she says, which can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Lime

Unpredictable weather, tree worm infestations and a Mexican drug cartel’s firm hold on the supply of limes have made this dark green citrus staple a coveted food stuff. As well as being anti-carcinogenic, limes are rich in calcium and folate.

Tamarind

The tart and tangy pulp of the tamarind tree is an important ingredient in many Mexican dishes, says Chef LaLa. “Tamarindo” is rich in key minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber and Mexicans use it to flavor candy and soft drinks.

Avocado

Mexican food would not be complete without the avocado. “The myriad of healthy fats and nutrients found in avocados – oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione among them – can help protect your body from heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye and brain diseases,” Bajaj says.

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