Are Tamales Bad For You (Are They Healthy)?

Mexican cuisine is super popular throughout the world, and it includes a whole host of delicious foods – whose mouth doesn’t water at the prospect of a juicy burrito packed full of their favorite ingredients?

Or how about a crunchy taco smothered in sour cream?

Are Tamales Bad For You (Are They Healthy)

The incredible blend of spices and tastes is what makes Mexican food stand out from the crowd, even among the plethora of takeaway items available to order in today’s market. 

One of the main concerns associated with Mexican food is the impact it can have on your body.

Many of the dishes are laden with fats, oils and salt, making them not ideal if you’re trying to eat healthily.

Of course, if you live by the moderation principle, you’ll know that it’s fine to eat meals like this sometimes, as long as you don’t have them all the time.

It is generally a good idea to limit your intake of Mexican food to special occasions, such as birthdays or when you have something else to celebrate.

However, not all Mexican food is terrible for you, so it’s not as simple as telling you to avoid it altogether for the most part.

It makes sense that the Mexicans themselves have ways to keep their own diet varied, and ensure that they are consuming enough nutrients for their bodies to function properly.

Some dishes are better for you than others, and one such example is tamales – here, you can find out what the big deal is, and why tamales would be a relatively healthy option to choose at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

What Is A Tamale?

If you’re not familiar, a tamale is a maize or corn dough casing, filled with various vegetables, meats and spices, and wrapped in a banana leaf for cooking.

Tamales can include all kinds of fillings, depending on what combination the chef (or customer!) wants.

They are often served as a complete meal because of how much they can hold, but they can also be a tasty snack. 

Tamales are an intrinsic part of Mexican culture, and they were being made before things like tortillas even existed.

The technique of cooking tamales in lime solution creates a finished product that transforms the corn base texture, so it is almost unrecognisable from its initial ingredients.

Nowadays, tamales are loved everywhere for their versatility – there really is a tamale for everyone.

How Are Tamales Cooked?

We have mentioned a few of the notable steps to cooking tamales: they are wrapped individually for cooking, either in a corn husk or a banana leaf.

This wrapper does a great job at holding in the juices that would otherwise just drain out of each tamale, so that the consumer can enjoy all the different flavors the ingredients have to offer.

Banana leaves also protect the tamales from getting burnt during the heating process, and contain healthy antioxidants that can transfer to the tamales via absorption.

These properties make them very popular for cooking with. 

How Are Tamales Cooked

Unlike many other Mexican dishes, tamales are actually steamed rather than fried. Although it is possible to cook tamales in other ways, steaming on the stovetop is the most common way.

This means that they are not lowered into vats of oil before they’re ready to eat, and instead are heated over boiling water for a significant period of time. 

What Are The Downsides To Eating Tamales?

The above reasons place tamales above other foods in terms of how they’re cooked, but what about the negative health implications they have?

We can’t ignore that they contain a lot of carbohydrate and fat in the ingredients, which often include cheese, sour cream and 

Just because they are steamed doesn’t mean that no fats are used in the cooking process; the dough casing is traditionally made with lard, which has high amounts of saturated fat in it.

This can raise your cholesterol if you eat too much, and the amount of dough on each tamale is substantial.

Most tamale chefs will add a generous helping of salt to both the dough and the prepared meat.

Too much salt increases your risk of things like heart disease or high blood pressure, as it can generate a build-up of fluid around your heart and make its job more difficult.

How Can I Make My Tamales Healthier?

The good news is, it’s definitely possible to customize your tamales so that they are as healthy as they can be while still maintaining the taste you know and love.

You will need to know the best ingredients and methods to help you achieve this.

Firstly, use chicken or turkey instead of pork or beef – this provides a leaner meat base that still tastes just as great.

Alternatively, you can skip the meat entirely and use beans. These are packed with essential nutrients and provide plenty of protein, so there’s no chance you’ll go hungry.

While most masa recipes involve lard, you can substitute this for vegetable oil, which is slightly healthier.

How Can I Make My Tamales Healthier

It would also make your dough suitable for vegetarians, so you can avoid animal products altogether if you prefer.

Masa is the traditional maize equivalent of the corn dough that is sometimes used, and its health benefits include being rich in calcium. 

Check out this healthy chicken tamale recipe for a step-by-step guide to making delicious tamales that won’t mess with your body.

If you use the stated ingredients, each serving only has 126 calories and 1g of saturated fat. 

Conclusion

It’s well established that tamales are yummy, and now we’ve also explained how they can be relatively good for you.

There are many ways to make tamales, so you can create your own and tailor the ingredients to your individual needs.

However, you shouldn’t think of them as an actual health food that will solve both your Mexican cravings and your dietary needs at the same time.

Like with everything else you eat, the best way to consume tamales is in moderation, making sure you also get ample amounts of fresh, unprocessed foods. 

Next time you hit your favorite Mexican restaurant, you can enjoy a sensible portion of this dish without worrying too much about its consequences for your body.

Jess Smith

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