Vegetable fiber, Corn tortillas, Better salads

Vegetable fiber, Corn tortillas, Better salads

Q: Is fiber content reduced when vegetables are cooked?
Q: Are corn tortillas a healthier choice than flour tortillas?
Q: How do you keep from getting bored with salad? The only things I can think of to make salad exciting are things that make it less healthy!

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is fiber content reduced when vegetables are cooked?

A: No, cooking doesn’t lead to loss or destruction of vegetables’ dietary fiber. The only reason fiber may change is if you remove the peel when cooking, which will reduce fiber content. In fact, because vegetables often “cook down,” meaning that a larger portion when raw becomes smaller when cooked, cooked vegetables may even be slightly higher in fiber than an equal portion of its raw form.

Q: Are corn tortillas a healthier choice than flour tortillas?

A: Corn tortillas used to be more nutritious than flour tortillas, but that’s not always true anymore. Corn tortillas are made of corn flour and have always been whole grain, providing dietary fiber and a variety of nutrients and antioxidant compounds. Tortillas referred to as flour tortillas were usually made of refined white flour. Today, however, larger grocery stores often carry flour tortillas made completely or primarily with whole grain flour, which can make them a good choice, too. Another traditional advantage of corn tortillas was lower fat content. But today, most varieties of tortillas are free of trans fat and low in saturated fat – the two types of fat that are a negative for heart health. Corn tortillas are generally still lower in sodium than their flour varieties. If you tend to eat out or use convenience foods frequently, and thus may already push sodium limits, the higher sodium content in flour tortillas may be an issue. A corn tortilla tends to have no more than 10 milligrams (mg) of sodium, whereas a six-inch flour tortilla may have about 200 mg, and the larger sizes range from 400 to 700 mg. Finally, calorie content is a consideration, and here the difference is not so much in the type of tortilla as in the size. The larger 10- or 12-inch tortillas are often flour tortillas and these giants are two to three times the calories of a 6-inch tortilla. Of course, when you think of corn tortillas, if you mean the crispy fried crispy taco shells, the extra fat puts those in a higher calorie league all their own.

Q: How do you keep from getting bored with salad? The only things I can think of to make salad exciting are things that make it less healthy!

A: Variety is important in your salad – it keeps your salads interesting and also provides a wider variety of nutrients. If it’s a green, leafy salad, try different greens, such as dark and flavorful raw spinach or romaine lettuce, tender Boston lettuce, medium crispy leaf lettuce, peppery arugula and the textured mix of spring greens sometimes called mesclun. Old salad standards like tomatoes and cucumbers are great, but so are any of these: sweet peppers, hot peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, olives, beets, jicama and green peas. But salads don’t have to be all vegetable. Have you tried mixing salad greens with orange segments, pineapple chunks, fresh berries, pears or peaches? And you could sometimes include dried beans (kidney, black or garbanzo beans, for example) or nuts, which are especially delicious if you take a couple minutes to toast them first. Adding beans or nuts can even turn your salad into a main dish, as can adding leftover cooked chicken, salmon or shrimp. Just a small amount of cheese can be a great addition, too. Add more variety by experimenting with dressings. Simple and nutritious need not be boring, such as olive oil with lemon juice or raspberry. You might also use Mexican salsa or a favorite bottled dressing, but use labels to make a good choice and watch the amount you use.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

2 Comments

  1. What?

    Corn tortillas don’t have any oils or fats, they are made strictly with corn flour and water, I don’t even think the use salt, but of course I am talking about fresh made tortillas, the one without preservatives. Flour tortillas required some sort of grease or oil, white flour, salt and of course those are delicious but less healthier.

    Don’t confuse tacos with tortillas, it’s like saying sandwich instead of sliced loaf of bread.

  2. EARLINE TAYLOR

    RECENTLY I DECIDED TO CONSCIOUSLY REMOVE AS MUCH SODIUM AS I CAN FROM MY DIET. UNFORTUNATELY MOST OF WHAT I LIKE CONTAINS TONS OF SALT. SO I STARTED LOOKING AROUND FOR SUBSTITUTES. I ALSO STARTED LOOKING AROUND FOR LOW SODIUM, NO SALT RECIPES. I SAW THAT I COULD SUBSTITUTE TORTILLAS FOR BREAD BECAUSE OF THE LOW SODIUM. I CAME ACROSS A BRAND OF TORTILLAS THAT IS 2 SHELLS, CONTAINLY 110 CALORIES AND ONLY 10 MILLIGRAMS OF SODIUM. MY THING IS IF I EAT THEM THE WAY THEY COME IN THE PACKAGE, THEY AREN’T VERY GOOD. ON THE OTHER HAND, IF I PLACE THEM IN HOT OIL OR USE COOKING SPRAY, THEY GET HARD. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS IS THERE ANY MIDDLE GROUND? HOW DO I KEEP THEM SOFT, WHILE TRYING TO MAKE THEM TASTIER WITHOUT ADDING SALT, FAT OR TO MANY EXTRA CALORIES. A TABLESPOON OF COOKING OIL IS 120 CALORIES. AND 4 SHELLS WILL SOAK ALL OF THAT UP. DOES SOMEONE HAVE AN REASONABLE SUGGESTION FOR ME. THANKS IN ADVANCE

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