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:

2. Avocadoes

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:

3. Rice

Rice is a classic traditional ingredient in Mexican cooking, enjoyed on its own with various toppings (e.g., spices, onions, tomatoes, cheese, etc.) or in dishes like enchiladas.

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.

These grains are significantly rich in antioxidants like ferulic acid and lignans, which have been shown to improve everything from systemic inflammation to disease risks.

4. Tomatoes

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:

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!