Like many traditional Mexican dishes, pozole is a corn-based dish often enjoyed across the country during festivities. That said, you may also enjoy it any other day of the year if desired.

It’s a stew typically made from meat, vegetables, sauce, broth, and hominy — a corn-based ingredient. There are many recipes to choose from, mainly varying the type of meat and sauce used.

Because it’s such a popular dish both throughout and outside of Mexico, you may wonder if this flavor-rich dish is healthy.

This article reviews pozole and tells you whether it’s healthy or not.

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Pozole is among the most popular traditional dishes in Mexican cuisine. It’s a soup or stew whose main ingredient is hominy.

Hominy is made by treating dried corn kernels in a process called nixtamalization. Nixtamalization was developed by ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations and includes the alkaline cooking of corn kernels (1).

Nixtamalization is traditionally done using a white substance called lime that mainly consists of calcium hydroxide. The corn kernels are cooked in lime, steeped overnight at room temperature, and washed with water to remove any excess lime (1).

To prepare pozole, hominy is cooked in pork or chicken broth.

Other ingredients generally include:

  • pork or chicken
  • green or red hot sauce
  • shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • sliced radish
  • diced onion
  • avocado

Among the many recipe variations available, three main types stand out — red, green, and white pozole.

Red pozole is made using a red hot sauce usually featuring ingredients like red tomatoes and chilies.

As its name implies, green pozole is made using a green hot sauce that swaps the red tomatoes and chilies for green ones. It may also include cilantro and epazote, an herb native to southern Mexico.

In contrast, white pozole features just the stew and no added sauce.

Summary

Pozole is a corn-based stew made with pork or chicken, vegetables, and condiments. It may be red or green depending on the choice of hot sauce used. It can also be white if no sauce is added.

Pozole is a balanced and nutrient-rich soup that provides all three macronutrients — carbs, protein, and fats.

A 1-cup (238-grams) serving of pozole with pork meat and chicken stock provides (2):

  • Calories: 214
  • Carbs: 12 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Niacin: 36% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Sodium: 25 % of the DV
  • Zinc: 20% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 15% of the DV
  • Potassium: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 7% of the DV

This dish is rich in vitamins and minerals like zinc, potassium, and niacin, also known as vitamin B3. It also offers some calcium and magnesium, both of which are increased during the nixtamalization process (1, 3).

Interestingly, niacin deficiency or pellagra — a condition characterized by symptoms like depression, apathy, headache, fatigue, and memory loss — is uncommon in countries where many traditional dishes center around corn (1, 4).

What’s more, nixtamalization improves the protein quality of hominy and reduces corn’s content of antinutrients. Antinutrients are compounds that can hinder the absorption of certain nutrients in your body (1, 3).

Therefore, enjoying a cup of pozole may be a comforting way to add more nutrients to your diet.

Summary

Pozole is a balanced dish rich in protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, and minerals. The content of some nutrients is improved during the nixtamalization process that the corn goes through.

Pozole is a healthy dish that may offer some health benefits.

Can be weight-loss-friendly

As mentioned, pozole is a protein-rich stew that provides up to 18 grams of protein per 1 cup (238 grams).

This accounts for 32–38% of the recommended daily dietary allowance (RDA) of protein. The RDA reflects how much protein you should consume per day to avoid protein deficiency, and is set at 0.36 grams per 1 pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight (5).

Research shows that protein-rich diets are effective for weight management. This is likely thanks to protein’s effect on energy expenditure and appetite (5, 6, 7).

Protein increases your energy expenditure by increasing diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) and resting metabolism. DIT refers to the energy needed for nutrient absorption, metabolism, and storage in your body (5, 6).

For comparison, fats and carbs increase DIT by 0–3% and 5–10%, respectively, while proteins produce an increase of 20–30% (5).

Protein also helps increase feelings of fullness and reduce your appetite by modulating gut hormones (5, 6, 7).

Specifically, evidence suggests that protein may increase hunger-reducing hormones like glucagon-like cholecystokinin (CCK), peptide 1 (GLP-1), and peptide YY (PYY). Protein also decreases ghrelin levels, an appetite-promoting hormone (5, 6, 7).

High in fiber

The nixtamalization process used to produce hominy causes significant chemical, nutritional, and quality changes in corn (8).

A notable change is the increase of the corn’s content of resistant starch, a type of fiber associated with numerous potential health benefits (1, 3).

Increased resistant starch content in a food is linked to improved blood sugar control because the fiber helps lower the food’s glycemic index (GI) and improves insulin sensitivity (1, 3, 9, 10).

A low GI means that a carb-containing food won’t spike your blood sugar levels much. Improved insulin sensitivity means that your cells will respond better to the hormone insulin, which is needed for sugar metabolism.

Resistant starch also acts as a prebiotic, which is food for your gut’s friendly bacteria. This increases the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can improve your gut health (10, 11).

Further, resistant starch may improve heart health by helping your body manage its triglycerides and cholesterol levels (9).

Gluten-free meal

Gluten-free diets can comprise foods like fruits, legumes, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and gluten-free cereals and pseudocereals like corn, rice, millet, sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and teff (12).

Being a corn-based dish, pozole is naturally gluten-free. That makes it a great option for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity who follow a gluten-free diet (12).

Reports from the Celiac Sprue Association — the largest non-profit celiac disease support group in the United States — state that zein, the main protein in corn, doesn’t cause allergic reactions in people with celiac disease (13).

As such, corn, cornflour, and homily are safe ingredients to use in gluten-free products (13).

Summary

Pozole may support weight loss due to its high protein content. It may support health thanks to its resistant starch. Plus, it’s a naturally gluten-free dish.

Despite pozole’s potential health benefits, the stew may also have some downsides.

For starters, it may be high in sodium. This can be especially true if you use pre-made broth when cooking the hominy and if you serve it with sodium-rich sides like tortilla chips.

High sodium intakes have been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure in some people. In turn, this can increase the risk of stroke (14, 15).

Pozole can also turn into a high fat and high calorie meal, depending on your choice of meat and toppings.

To control your meal’s sodium, fat, and calorie content, try making your own broth or using a low sodium version. Opt for leaner cuts of meat like pork tenderloin or skinless chicken breast and limit your serving size of calorie-dense sides and toppings.

Summary

Pozole can be high in sodium, fat, and calories depending on your choice of ingredients. Opt for a low sodium broth, lean cuts of pork or chicken, and keep your serving size of toppings in mind.

Pozole can be enjoyed in different ways — for example, depending on your choice of salsa.

Aside from choosing between red, green, or no sauce, some recipes add beans to the mix. Others only include beans as a vegetarian or vegan alternative to pork or chicken, often alongside a vegetable broth.

While pozole is usually topped with shredded lettuce or cabbage, sliced radish, diced onions, avocado, and lime wedges, it’s also common to find tortilla chips, cilantro, and sour cream as part of the finishing touches.

Summary

Pozole recipes can vary on the choice of sauce, and some call for extra ingredients. You can make vegetarian pozole by swapping meat for beans and using vegetable broth. There’s a wide range of toppings to choose from.

Pozole is a Mexican stew made from hominy, meat, red or green hot sauce, broth, and toppings like lettuce, cabbage, onions, avocado, and lime.

It’s a balanced dish made with nutritious ingredients that could help you lose weight, manage your blood sugar, and improve your gut health — all while being naturally gluten-free.

However, it can also be high in sodium, fat, and calories. Thus, using low sodium broths and lean cuts of meat is advised.

Just one thing:

Try this today: Pozole can be a good addition to a well-balanced diet. Still, it may be best to enjoy your pozole with a side salad or your favorite veggies to add more fiber and other nutrients to this wholesome meal.