11 Healthy Hispanic Foods You Should Eat
The term “Hispanic” describes anyone whose origins are in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America, or other Spanish origin, according to the Pew Research Center. Some people prefer to use the term Latino or Latino, which describes people of Latin American descent.
In the United States, the Hispanic population is the largest racial or ethnic minority, numbering more than 63 million individuals, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is approximately one-fifth of the total population. As a result, elements of Hispanic cultures, including food, found a large place in American life. “Food is used to celebrate, mourn, uplift, bring together, relieve, and uplift pivotal and mundane moments in our lives,” says Tanya Bernard, RDN, who works at Culina Health, a virtual nutrition company.
Unfortunately, American life can also affect traditional Hispanic diets. Research has found that when people immigrate to the United States, their diet becomes more American as they incorporate more comfort foods into their diet, such as burgers, fries, and soft drinks, according to a study published in Nutrition magazine in September 2021. The study showed that the longer Hispanics and Latinos lived in the United States, the more their dietary patterns changed as they adopted a Western diet. Another study published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health A February 2021 report showed that Latino men eat more unhealthy foods and more meals outside the home due to working long hours.
“Unfortunately, as Hispanic Americans acculturate, their diet closely resembles the typical American eating pattern,” says Sylvia Klinger, RDN, founder of Hispanic Food Communications. Cultural attitudes about cooking and food may also play a role. In the fast-paced culture of the United States, preparing meals can seem more like an obligation than a pleasure, Klinger says. But for many Hispanics, “cooking is not seen as a chore,“The table is a great place to come together and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals while building relationships,” she says.
This evidence suggests that Americans could learn a thing or two about healthy eating habits from traditional Hispanic diets — and enjoy some of those traditional foods whether you’re Hispanic or not. “In general, our foods are healthy and include legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, herbs and spices,” says Bernard. “Hispanics take great pride in our traditional foods, and their nutritional importance is passed down through generations.”
Here are 11 traditional Spanish foods to consider in your diet regularly.
1. Fresh water
Are you thirsty but don’t feel like soda or alcoholic drinks and want something more than plain water? Consider agua fresca (which translates to “fresh water”), a drink made with fresh fruit, notes the University of Illinois. “Hispanics love making drinks with fresh fruit,” Klinger says. “For example, agua fresca made with fresh juice and water is very popular in Mexico, while in the Caribbean it is common to drink juices such as jogo de tamarindo (tamarind juice) and jogo de peña (pineapple juice).” Most Mexican restaurants have agua fresca on the menu but you can also make one yourself. “If you’re making one at home, I always recommend using ripe fruit and skipping the added sugar, which is rarely needed,” Klinger says. A typical can of Coke contains more than 36 grams of sugar, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, and many juices are just as packed with sugar, so you’ll save empty calories and get some tracking. Nutrients and fiber from fruit.
This fruit is a staple in many Spanish cuisines and for good reason: it is a nutritional powerhouse. A study published in the journal “Eating two servings of avocados – the equivalent of one avocado – per week reduces the risk of heart disease.” Journal of the American Heart Association in March 2022. And if you need more reasons to enjoy these delicious and versatile fruits, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, according to the USDA. “Avocados contain antioxidants to protect your healthy cells, and they also contain vitamins and minerals including K, C, E, B vitamins, potassium, and lutein to protect your eye health,” says Klinger.
Beans are a staple food in many Spanish cuisines. “Beans are an inexpensive plant-based protein source,” Klinger says. According to Rutgers, beans are less expensive and lean than animal protein. In addition, it is an excellent source of many minerals and vitamins. Beans contain folic acid, iron, potassium and magnesium, according to a study published in Nutrients in February 2021. If you prefer to use canned beans instead of buying dried beans, Klinger says (and Rutgers confirms), “just rinse them to get rid of about 40 percent of the sodium.”
Cocoa, a large seed pod filled with pulp and seeds (known as “beans”), is the basis for making chocolate, Colorado State University points out, but it can be used for much more. Both the fruit and beans are edible, although the former is difficult to obtain in the United States. Cocoa beans are one of the richest food sources of antioxidants, and the main reason why dark chocolate has so many health benefits. Cocoa is high in flavanols, which may aid heart health, help regulate blood glucose and increase insulin sensitivity, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. You can find cocoa in the form of nibs, small pieces of dried cocoa beans, and powder (not to be confused with cocoa powder). “Cocoa isn’t technically a spice, it’s a ground seed, but I like to think of it as an honorary spice,” Bernard says. “Many cultures use cocoa ceremonially, as they believe cocoa is a divine food that connects the earthly and heavenly realms.” You can find cocoa powder in health food stores and some supermarkets. It’s less processed and less sweet than chocolate, so it can be added to smoothies, other drinks, spice blends, oatmeal and stews, according to Good appetite.
Ceviche, a common dish in Mexican and Peruvian restaurants, is made from raw fish or seafood using an acid — usually lemon juice — that breaks down the proteins and essentially cooks the fish or seafood, a study published in the journal noted. foods In March 2022. “Most Hispanic countries have coastal areas, so fish and seafood are a big part of our cuisines,” Bernard says. “Ceviche is one of those foods that is not only delicious, but also packed with nutrients.” Seafood is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health and overall health, according to the National Institutes of Health.
6. Chia seeds
Long before they were a common superfood, these tiny black seeds were one of the most important crops for the Aztecs, Britannica notes. The plant that gives us chia seeds, Spanish sageIt is native to Mexico and Guatemala, and is mainly grown in Latin American countries. Chia seeds are known for their nutritional density: One ounce contains nearly 10 grams of dietary fiber, more than 4 grams of plant protein, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, plus calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. According to US Department of Agriculture data. “Chia seeds can be added to cereal, yogurt, and lemonade,” says Drago. They are also known for their ability to form a thick gel when mixed with water, which has led to the seeds being used in jams and made into healthy “chia pudding,” among other dishes.
Guava is a sweet, small, pink fruit that contains lots of minerals and vitamins, as well as beta-carotene and lycopene, according to the USDA. “Fresh guava, guava juice and guava paste are very popular,” says Drago. One small previous study found that eating guava pulp without the peel was effective in lowering blood glucose, triglycerides and LDL-C, while increasing good HDL-C cholesterol.
Guanabana, also known as soursop and graviola, is a fruit with a prickly exterior that has creamy white pulp and lots of sweet and sour black seeds, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “Guanabana is a hydrating fruit with a sweet, refreshing flavor — think pineapple meets lychee and strawberry,” says Bernard. It contains antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, according to USDA data. Soursop has been widely used in traditional medicine for its purported anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, and anti-diabetic properties, among other uses, according to a study published in the journal. molecules In February 2022. You can find this tropical fruit fresh and frozen in specialty markets.
Mangoes are easy to find in grocery stores in the produce section and the frozen and dried fruit aisles. A sweet and delicious tropical fruit with vibrant orange flesh, they can be eaten like apples, added to fresh salsas, salads, smoothies or even grilled, notes the Cleveland Clinic. “Although not originally from Latin America, mangoes grow in Mexico and Peru and are consumed in Latin America,” says Drago. According to the USDA, mangoes are a good source of several vitamins, including C, and research published in Nutrients A December 2021 study found that adults who regularly consumed mangoes had significantly higher daily intakes of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E, and significantly lower intakes of added sugar and cholesterol, compared to those who did not eat them. Eat mango regularly.
10. Prickly pear
The flat, wide, round pad of the prickly pear cactus, also known as nopales, is a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine, according to Britannica. Nopales are typically boiled or grilled and used as a taco filling as well as eaten raw in salads. “The mighty nopal is high in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties,” says Klinger, and research backs this up. Research published in Antioxidants (Basel) In December 2021, he notes that antioxidants in nopal may inhibit some free radicals, compounds that contribute to chronic disease and aging. Nopales contain more than 5 grams of fiber per cup, according to USDA data, which may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control for people with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in Journal of Functional Foods In July 2021. Nopales also contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Plantains look like plantains but are eaten cooked, not raw, and are often green in color, according to Britannica. “Plantain, or platano in Spanish, is a food beloved by the Spanish community and often gets a bad reputation,” Barnard says. “Plantain is an extremely versatile food, and green plantains are an abundant source of resistant starch.” Resistant starch is a fiber that is not digested in the intestines and ferments in the colon, creating beneficial bacteria in the intestines, according to a review published in June 2022 in Journal of Functional Foods. There is evidence that this type of starch may have benefits for blood sugar, gut and heart health, and weight loss or maintenance.
Many traditional Spanish foods have proven health benefits. Whether you already eat some of these foods or are interested in adding some to your diet, incorporating these Spanish fruits, seeds, drinks, or dishes into your meal planning can be a fun way to diversify your diet and add some flavor and flavor. A little healthier too.