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Home ยป Are Tamales Healthy?

Are Tamales Healthy?

Tamales are a delicious dish that is typically served for lunch or dinner. While they’re traditionally Mesoamerican fare, you can find them throughout the United States. If you love Mexican food and are looking for a way to incorporate tamales into your diet, you may want to know if they are healthy for you in addition to being delicious.

To understand the health implications, it’s important to examine tamale ingredients and the cooking process to determine if the dish is good for you. With this information, you’re bound to add tamales to your meal prep calendar!

A dinner plate filled with a serving of tamales, Mexican rice, pinto beans, and pickled veggies. Corn chips and salsa are on the side.

What Are Tamales?

Tamales are wrapped in a corn-based dough mixture and then filled with meat, beans, cheese, and other ingredients. You cook them in corn husks or banana leaves (which you take off before eating). 

This dish varies based on the Latin roots of the restaurant where it’s being served. A Mexican tamale may look different from tamales found in other parts of Central or South America. You may see different flavors and ingredients used depending on the location or the chef’s family origin. They also vary based on cultural differences within the same region–if you travel often, you likely won’t eat the same tamale twice.

Tamales are very portable, making them the perfect meal for work, school, or when you’re out and about. If they’re being served by themselves, you should have two to three tamales ready to go for each person–you can place them in a portable container to keep them fresh until someone is ready to eat them.

What Are Tamales Made Of?

The tamale dough and shell is usually made with the following ingredients:

  • Dried corn husks
  • ‘Masa harina’ (a special type of finely ground corn flour)
  • Chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Ground cumin

The filling may include:

  • Refried beans
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
  • Red salsa
  • Mole
  • Salsa verde
  • Enchilada sauce

You can top them with:

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Cotija cheese
  • Pico de gallo
  • Salsa

After looking at this ingredient list, you may be wondering if tamales are gluten-free, especially if you have someone in your family with dietary issues. The good news is the dough that tamales are made from is indeed gluten-free. It’s corn flour as opposed to wheat flour, making it safe for those who can’t have gluten in their diet.

Tamales and Your Health

Whether a food is healthy or not is often subjective because everyone has different health goals and sensitivities. However, tamales can be assembled to be a balanced meal, featuring protein, carbs, fat, and veggies.

Tamales are also a good source of iron and phosphorus, both of which provide energy throughout the day. According to Healthline, the nixtamalization process for the masa harina turns it into resistant starch, fiber, and a prebiotic.

No dish comes without potential health downsides, though. For tamales, it’s the fact that people often use lard to prepare the dough, which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. This can easily be mitigated by using vegetable oil instead of lard.

Wrapping It Up

Overall, tamales are a generally healthy meal that you can easily make part of a balanced diet by using a recipe from Savor the Best. Tamales are often loaded with nutrients that contribute to your wellbeing. Whip up this traditional dish today with one of our easy recipes!

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