Corn Tortilla Carbs and Nutrition Facts
Corn flour, or maize flour, forms the traditional tortilla in Mexican cuisine. While flour tortillas are popular, corn tortillas actually predate flour tortillas. Corn tortillas can be traced back to the Aztecs, while flour tortillas were not produced until the Spaniards brought wheat to Mexico.
When choosing a corn tortilla, read the nutrition facts and ingredients list. Many mass-produced corn tortillas mix corn flour with wheat flour, affecting its nutritional makeup.
What’s in a Corn Tortilla?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a medium-size corn tortilla is about 28 grams and includes the following:
- 12.8 grams of water (we get about 20 percent of our daily water intake from food and other beverages)
- 12.5 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.6 grams of protein
- 1.76 grams of dietary fiber
- 0.798 grams of lipid (fat)
- 0.246 grams of sugar
- 52.1 milligrams of potassium
- 22.7 milligrams of calcium
- 20.2 milligrams of magnesium
- 0.344 milligrams of iron
- 12.6 milligrams of sodium
One hundred percent corn tortillas are an excellent choice for anyone with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Just remember to check the nutrition facts label to ensure there’s no added wheat flour.
Corn vs. Flour Tortillas
According to the USDA, the average medium-size flour tortilla is 45 grams and contains the following:
- 14.4 grams of water
- 22.2 grams of carbohydrates
- 3.69 grams of protein
- 1.58 grams of dietary fiber
- 3.6 grams of lipid (fat)
- 1.67 grams of sugar
- 56.2 milligrams of potassium
- 65.7 milligrams of calcium
- 9.9 milligrams of magnesium
- 1.63 milligrams of iron
- 331 milligrams of sodium
Flour tortillas are often larger and thicker than corn tortillas, making a good base for burritos and other similar foods.
While neither tortillas are bad for you, a flour tortilla is often considered the less healthy option. The average flour tortilla has more carbs, fat, sugar, and sodium and less magnesium and fiber than a corn tortilla. Plus, some find it easier to stick to serving sizes when they eat dishes made with smaller corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
If you prefer flour tortillas or have a recipe that calls for one, try a whole wheat tortilla instead of a refined flour tortilla. Whole wheat bread options contain more vitamins and minerals than white bread.
Making Corn Tortillas
How should you track what goes in and out of your body? Many people argue the best way is to prepare your food. Others simply enjoy the satisfaction of making their meals from scratch or the taste of home-cooked food.
If you’re interested in preparing homemade corn tortillas, the process isn’t hard. You need:
- Corn flour (available online, at most Mexican markets, and some chain grocery stores)
- Warm water
- A tortilla press or rolling pin
- Sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap
- A griddle, skillet, or frying pan
- Optional ingredients, such as ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ tablespoon of olive oil, for a different taste
Take 2 cups of corn flour and mix 1 ½ to 2 cups of hot water in a bowl. If you have olive oil or salt, add them in as well. Stir to combine and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
Next, knead the dough with your hands for several minutes until it’s pliable. Ideally, it should feel smooth without feeling sticky, like you’re working with clay. If the dough is too wet or dry, add more water or dough as needed.
If you want better tasting tortillas, let the dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes. However, if you’re hungry and eager to eat, you can skip this step.
Form the dough into balls that fit in the palm of your hand. You can also experiment and make larger or smaller balls for different tortilla sizes.
If you’re using a tortilla press, place a parchment or plastic sheet on the press, followed by a tortilla ball and another sheet. Gently press down until the tortilla is about 4 to 5 inches wide.
If you’re using a rolling pin, place the ball between sheets and press it down until it’s a disc. Then use the rolling pin until it’s the desired size and thickness.
Once you have your raw tortilla, cook it in a pan on high heat. Each side should cook for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The tortilla should look lightly toasted with curling edges and forming air pockets.
You can serve immediately or refrigerate the tortillas for a later meal.
What if Corn Tortillas Aren’t for Me?
If corn tortillas aren’t to your taste, that doesn’t mean you’re limited to flour tortillas. With a little bit of creativity and research, you’ll discover many types of tortillas you can try.
Cauliflower tortillas are one option:
- Take a cauliflower head and use a blender or food processor to cut into pieces that are smaller than rice grains. Many stores sell riced cauliflower in the frozen foods section, enabling you to skip this step.
- Steam the riced cauliflower, then wrap the cauliflower in a clean cheesecloth or dish towel. Squeeze thoroughly to remove all excess moisture. If too much water remains in the cauliflower, your tortillas will be soggy.
- Mix the cauliflower with two large eggs and your choice of seasonings. Try basic salt and pepper, or add in cilantro, oregano, paprika, etc.
- Separate the “dough” into balls and form into tortillas. Place your tortillas on a baking pan.
- Cook in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for about 5 minutes. Your tortillas should be ready to eat then.
There’s also almond flour or coconut flour tortillas. You can buy them at select stores or prepare at home by following a recipe—you’ll find many online with a quick web search.
You also substitute wrap options for tortillas when you’re making a dish. Place your fillings in a lettuce or egg white wrap and roll it up to make a meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has several healthy snack suggestions:
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks with peanut butter
- Cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices with ranch dressing
- Hard-boiled egg
- Apples with cheese
For healthier snacking, the ADA recommends you focus solely on your food. Don’t multitask by reading or watching TV.
Instead of snacking on standard potato chips, try alternatives such as kale chips, roasted sweet potato chips, zucchini crisps, and other fruit and vegetable-based chips.
If you like to dip tortilla chips in a salsa or guacamole, try substituting raw vegetables such as celery or carrot sticks. If you want a crunchy snack, consider nuts and seeds instead.
For other snack ideas, check out our guide to healthy snacks for work and home.
Everyone has different nutritional needs, so we can’t provide a magic number of carbs that everyone should eat daily. Medline recommends that your carb intake should make up between 45 to 65 of your daily total calories. A person on the average 2000-calorie diet might ingest about 275 carbs every day.
Yes, a low-impact exercise like walking can still help you burn carbs and other calories. How many calories you burn in a mile depends on your walking speed and the terrain. A brisk pace at an incline burns more calories than a leisurely walk on a flat surface.
A daily walk can not only help you burn calories but also improve your mood and decrease your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
When you follow a low-carb diet, focusing on foods rich in fat and protein, your body undergoes ketosis. During ketosis, your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The keto diet is a well-known example of a low-carb meal plan.
Because low-carb diets usually lack the nutrients necessary for a growing body, children and teenagers should not overly restrict their carb intake. People following the keto diet may also experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Stomach aches
- Difficulty sleeping
People need to eat protein every day because it’s not stored in our bodies like fats and carbohydrates are. You get protein from meat, dairy, nuts, beans, and certain grains. Animal products are usually “complete proteins” with all the amino acids that your body can’t produce. Plants have “incomplete proteins,” requiring you to eat different plants for all the amino acids your body needs.
So what happens if you eat an excessive amount of protein? People who overeat protein regularly have a higher risk of kidney stones. Diets that contain high amounts of red meat and saturated fats are tied to an increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
Just how much protein is too much? There’s no one answer, especially since everyone has different nutritional needs. Women need about 46 grams of protein a day unless they’re pregnant. Men need about 56 grams a day.
Did We Help?
Corn tortillas are an excellent way to control portion sizes and ingest necessary nutrients. They’re also a good flour alternative for anyone who has trouble digesting gluten. While they’re a staple of Mexican dishes, you can get creative with how you incorporate corn tortillas into your diet.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.