In many cultures, food is more than just sustenance; it’s also a way to bring family and friends together. This is certainly true for Hispanic culture, says Lorena Drago, her RDN at CDCES. Beyond rice and beans. “Food brings us together. Family is essential to Hispanic families, no matter what country or region they come from.”
According to the Pew Research Center, a Hispanic is someone with roots in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America, South America, or other Hispanic origins. Some people prefer to use the term Latin American or Latino to describe people of Latin American origin.
The Hispanic population is the largest racial or ethnic minority in the United States, numbering more than 63 million people, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This corresponds to almost one-fifth of the total population. As a result, elements of Hispanic culture, including food, have come to occupy an important place in American life. “Food is used to celebrate, mourn, uplift, gather, comfort, and uplift both the important and mundane moments of life,” says her RDN, who works at Culina Health, a virtual nutrition company. says his girlfriend Tanya Bernard.
Unfortunately, American life can also affect the traditional Hispanic diet. A study published in found that when people immigrate to the United States, their diets become more Americanized as they incorporate more ready-to-eat foods such as hamburgers, fries, and soda into their diets. nutrition journal 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 study found that Latino men are eating more unhealthy foods and eating more meals outside the home due to long working hours.
“Unfortunately, as Hispanic Americans acculturate, their diets increasingly resemble typical American eating patterns,” said Sylvia, RDN, founder of Hispanic Food Communications.・Klinger says. Cultural attitudes toward cooking and food may also play a role. In America’s fast-paced culture, meal prepping can seem more like an obligation than fun, Klinger says. However, for many Hispanics, cooking is not perceived as a chore.,She says, “The table is the perfect place to gather and enjoy delicious, nutritious food while building relationships.”
This evidence shows that Americans can learn something about healthy eating habits from the traditional diets of Hispanics, and that they can enjoy those traditional foods regardless of whether they are Hispanic or not. I am. “Generally speaking, our food is healthy and includes legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, herbs, and spices,” says Bernard. “Hispanics take great pride in their traditional foods, and their nutritional importance is passed down from generation to generation.”
Here are 11 traditional Hispanic dishes you should consider incorporating into your diet on a regular basis.
1. Fresh water
Feeling thirsty but don’t want a soda or alcoholic beverage? Want something more than just water? The University of Illinois points to a drink made from fresh fruit called agua fresca (translated as “fresh water”) )Let’s think about. “Hispanics love making drinks with fresh fruit,” Klinger says. “For example, in Mexico, agua fresca, which is made with fresh juice and water, is very popular, while in the Caribbean it is more popular to drink juices such as jugo de tamarindo (tamarind juice) and jugo de piña (pineapple juice). It’s common.” Most Mexican restaurants have agua fresca on the menu, but you can also make your own. “If you’re making it at home, it’s always best to use ripe fruit and avoid adding sugar, which is rarely needed,” Klinger says. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a typical can of Coke contains more than 36 grams (g) of sugar, and many juices contain sugar as well, making them empty. You can save calories and consume small amounts. Nutrients and dietary fiber in fruits.
These fruits are a main ingredient in many Hispanic dishes, and for good reason. It is a source of nutrition. Eating two servings of avocado (equivalent to one avocado) a week reduced the risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the journal Nature. American Heart Association Journal And if you need even more reasons to enjoy these delicious and versatile fruits, the USDA points out that they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. “Avocados contain antioxidants that protect healthy cells and vitamins and minerals such as vitamins K, C, E, B, potassium, and lutein that protect eye health,” says Klinger. .
Beans are a staple in many Hispanic dishes. “Beans are an inexpensive source of plant protein,” says Klinger. Beans are cheaper and lower in fat than animal protein, Rutgers said. In addition, they are an excellent source of numerous minerals and vitamins. According to a study published in , beans contain folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium. nutrients If you want to use canned beans instead of buying dried beans, Klinger says (and Rutgers agrees), “Just rinse them to remove about 40 percent of the sodium.”
Cacao, which is a large seed pod filled with pulp and seeds (known as a “bean”), is the raw material for chocolate, but it can also be used for a variety of other purposes, according to Colorado State University. Both fruit and beans are edible, but the former is difficult to obtain in the United States. Cocoa beans are one of the richest food sources of antioxidants and are the main reason dark chocolate has so many health benefits. Cacao is rich in flavanols, which may help support heart health, regulate blood sugar levels, and increase insulin sensitivity, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. Cacao is sold as nibs, small pieces of actual dried cocoa beans, and powder (not to be confused with cocoa powder). “While cacao is not technically a spice, it’s a powdered seed, I like to think of it as an honorable spice,” Bernard says. “Many cultures use cacao in rituals because it is believed to be a sacred food that connects the earthly and heavenly realms.” Cacao powder is available at health food stores and some supermarkets. can. It is less processed and less sweet than chocolate, so it can be added to smoothies, other drinks, spice blends, oatmeal, and stews. enjoy your meal.
A common dish in Mexican and Peruvian restaurants, ceviche is made with raw fish or seafood and uses acid (usually lime juice) to break down the proteins and reduce the fish or seafood to its essence. The results of a study published in 2006 point out that it is a type of food that must be prepared in a consistent manner. food “Most Hispanic countries have coastal areas, so seafood is abundant in our cuisine,” Bernard says. “Ceviche is one of the foods that is not only delicious, but also nutritious.” According to the National Institutes of Health, seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health and overall health. .
6. Chia seeds
Long before they became a popular superfood, these tiny black seeds were one of the Aztecs’ most important crops, writes Britannica. The plant that gives us chia seeds, wise man of spanish, native to Mexico and Guatamala, and grown primarily in Latin American countries. Chia seeds are famous for their nutrient density. One ounce contains about 10g of dietary fiber, over 4g of plant-based protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. , according to USDA data. “Chia seeds can be added to cereals, yogurt, and lemonade,” says Drago. It is also well known for its ability to form a thick gel when mixed with water, which is why the seeds are used in jams and in healthy dishes such as “chia pudding.”
Guavas have sweet, small pink flesh that is rich in minerals and vitamins, as well as beta-carotene and lycopene, according to the USDA. “Raw guava, guava juice and guava paste, which are common fruits in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other Latin American countries, are very popular,” says Drago. A small past study found that consuming peeled guava pulp was effective in lowering blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and LDL-C, and increasing HDL-C, the good cholesterol. got it.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, guanabana, also known as soursop and graviola, is a fruit with a spiny exterior with creamy white flesh and lots of sweet and sour black seeds. “Guanabana is a sweet, tangy, and hydrating fruit. Think of it like pineapple meets lychee meets strawberry,” Bernard says. It contains antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, according to USDA data. Soursop has been widely used in traditional medicine for its anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, and anti-diabetic properties, according to a study published in an academic journal. molecule This tropical fruit can be found fresh and frozen in specialty markets.
Mangoes are easy to find in the produce section of your grocery store, in the frozen aisle, or as dried fruit. A sweet, juicy tropical fruit with bright orange flesh, it can be eaten like an apple, added to fresh salsas, salads, smoothies, or grilled, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Masu. “Mangoes are not native to Latin America, but they are grown in Mexico and Peru and are consumed in Latin America,” Drago says. According to the USDA, mangoes are a good source of several vitamins, including vitamin C, research findings were published at the United States Department of Agriculture. nutrients In December 2021, adults who regularly consumed mangoes had significantly higher daily intakes of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E compared to those who did not. Added sugar and cholesterol intakes were found to be significantly lower. Eat mango regularly.
10. Prickly pear cactus
The flat, wide, round pads of the prickly pear cactus, also known as nopales, are a common 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. “Powerful nopales are rich in antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties,” Klinger says, and research supports this.Research published in Antioxidants (Basel) A December 2021 study shows that the antioxidants found in nopales may inhibit some free radicals, compounds that contribute to chronic disease and aging. Nopales contains more than 5 grams of fiber per cup and may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, according to USDA data. Functional food journal Nopales also contain many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
According to Britannica, plantains are similar to bananas, but they are eaten cooked rather than raw, and are often eaten in their green form. “Plantains, or platanos in Spanish, are a beloved food in the Hispanic community, but they often get a bad rap,” Bernard says. “Plants are a very versatile food, and green plantains are a rich source of resistant starch.” Resistant starch is not digested in the intestines, but is fermented in the colon and contains beneficial bacteria in the intestines. A review published in June 2022 reports that it is a fiber that produces. Functional food journal. There is evidence that this type of starch may have benefits for blood sugar levels, gut and heart health, and weight loss or maintenance.
Many traditional Hispanic dishes have proven health benefits. Whether you already eat these foods or want to add them to your diet, incorporating these Hispanic fruits, seeds, drinks, or dishes into your meal plan will make a difference in your diet and It’s a fun way to add flavor. It’s also a little healthier.