Frequently featured in Mexican dishes, tortillas are a great main ingredient to consider.
However, you may wonder whether corn or flour tortillas are the healthier choice.
This article explores the differences between corn and flour tortillas to help you decide.
Tortillas are a thin flatbread usually made from either corn or wheat flour. Their popularity in the United States has surged, as has the number of health-focused options.
There are some differences in the ways the two varieties are made.
Traditionally, corn tortillas begin with a process called nixtamalization. This involves soaking and then cooking corn, also known as maize, in an alkaline solution of calcium hydroxide, or limewater.
On the other hand, flour tortillas are typically made from a dough of refined wheat flour, water, shortening or lard, salt, baking soda, and other ingredients to help develop the gluten. This yields a softer and sturdier texture (1).
While flour tortillas are usually made with refined wheat flour, more nutritious whole wheat varieties are available (
Given their distinct ingredients, corn and flour tortillas have different nutritional profiles.
|Corn tortilla||Flour tortilla|
|Carbs||19.6 grams||22.2 grams|
|Protein||2.51 grams||3.69 grams|
|Fat||1.25 grams||3.6 grams|
|Fiber||2.77 grams||1.58 grams|
|Calcium||35.6 mg||65.7 mg|
|Iron||0.54 mg||1.63 mg|
|Magnesium||31.7 mg||9.9 mg|
|Sodium||19.8 mg||331 mg|
Flour tortillas tend to contain more fat because they’re usually made with lard or shortening.
Corn tortillas were traditionally made by the Aztecs and involve an important process known as nixtamalization. Nutritionally, they deliver smaller amounts of sodium, carbs, fat, and calories than flour tortillas.
Corn tortillas tend to outshine flour tortillas as the healthier option.
Whole grains provide more fiber, which is beneficial for your heart and digestive health (
It’s worth noting that whole wheat tortillas also offer some whole grains, but the exact amount depends on the blend used in the product (
If you have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you should not consume flour tortillas or other gluten-containing products. Generally, if you have any of these conditions, 100% corn tortillas are your best option, because they’re gluten-free.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to gluten that causes damage to your digestive tract. Thus, if you have celiac disease, you should not eat flour tortillas and should stick to 100% corn tortillas (
Corn tortillas are usually smaller, measuring about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Flour tortillas tend to be larger, usually 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) in diameter. This means corn tortillas have built-in portion control.
If you frequent authentic taco shops, be mindful that one taco is often made with a double layer of corn tortillas. This helps make the taco sturdier and more filling but increases the calorie, carb, and fat content.
Flour tortillas are sturdier, which is why they’re usually used for dishes such as burritos, which have more fillings. If your dish requires a flour tortilla, opt for a whole wheat variety. This will pack an extra bit of nutrients such as fiber and important minerals.
Corn tortillas are a healthier alternative to flour tortillas. They provide more whole grains and have built-in portion control because they’re typically smaller. They’re also gluten-free and thus suitable for people who cannot tolerate gluten.
If you’re looking for the healthier option, corn tortillas outshine their flour alternative.
Corn tortillas deliver fiber, whole grains, and other nutrients while being lower in fat and calories than flour tortillas.
Tortillas made from 100% corn are also safe for people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
Still, if you can eat gluten, you may want to choose flour tortillas when using heavier fillings, as they tend to be sturdier.
Whichever you select, be sure to fill your tortilla with plenty of veggies and beans to make it a truly nutritious meal.