This month, many people celebrated Cinco de Mayo — a celebration of Mexico’s victory over the French military — with festive food inspired by Mexican cuisine. But why only enjoy the delicious, antioxidant-rich ingredients found in Mexican food simply on May 5th? In fact, the star ingredients found in many of your favorite Mexican dishes have significant benefits to your immune system and general health. Today, we’ll explore four of the most common ingredients used in Mexican food and find out why we should be cooking with these healthy foods all year long.
The 4 Healthiest Mexican Ingredients to Use Today
1. Refried Beans
This is an easily recognizable staple in both Tex-Mex cuisine and Mexican cuisine. While methods of preparation vary as you travel through Mexico and other Latin American destinations, it’s typically made with pinto beans that are soaked, stewed, mashed, then baked or fried for a second cooking (hence the term “re-fried”).
The result? A rich, spicy dish that you’ll find in gorditas (Mexican flatbread), friojles charros, and other dishes.
Depending on the type of bean used (it’s traditionally made with pinto beans, but some people also use kidney beans, black beans, etc.), a single serving nets you an incredible 13 grams of plant-based protein, a whopping 10 grams of fiber (great for your gut health and immune system), and significant amounts of minerals like magnesium and zinc.
A diet rich in beans may:
- Boost your cardiovascular health and reduce your risks of heart disease
- Balance your blood sugar
- Enhance your immune system and reduce your risks of numerous illnesses thanks to the high content of polyphenols in beans
When you’re eating at a Mexican restaurant and they ask if you’d like a side a guac, the real question is: Can you have too much guacamole? Avocados are the mainstay in this side dish/topping, and you’ll also find them diced or cubed in everything from burritos to tacos. They aren’t just tasty and one of the best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but a single 7-ounce avocado also offers you:
- 14 grams of gut health-enhancing fiber
- Rich amounts of immune system-supporting vitamins and minerals, including nearly a quarter of your daily requirements of vitamin C and high amounts of vitamins B2, B3, B5 and B6
Eating avocados regularly may:
- Lower your levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol
- Enhance your gut health, and specifically the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, which is important for everything from digestion to mental health to immune strength
- Offer protective benefits for your immune system, levels of chronic inflammation, and even brain health thanks to its many antioxidants
Rice is easily digestible and one of the healthiest forms of whole-grain carbohydrates, especially if you opt for brown rice or wild rice instead of processed white rice.
Many people focus on the health benefits found in the fiber in rice, but rice is also surprisingly good for your immunity.
Think beyond salsa. Tomatoes are found in everything from tostadas to sauces, and they’re incredibly healthy. These juicy fruits (yes, while often thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually fruit) are extremely high in folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K1.
Studies suggest that tomatoes can:
- Strengthen your immune system due to four key plant compounds and antioxidants found in tomatoes, specifically naringenin, lycopene, beta carotene and chlorogenic acid
- Reduce your risks of various common forms of cancer
- Boost your skin health, and even reduce your risk of sun-related skin damage and aging
Whether you’re cooking a Mexican dish for dinner tonight or want to incorporate these ingredients into other recipes you enjoy, make these star foods a part of your weekly cuisine and see how they transform your life!