When I look around and see so many people enjoying Hispanic food, it reminds me that not long ago people couldn’t recognize a tortilla! Prior to the 1970s, little food, cultural, behavioral and health research addressed Hispanics in America and their socio-demographic status. Four decades later, as a result of dramatic growth in the Hispanic population, and limited information about Hispanics’ food/culture and health-related behaviors, there is a surge of interest in Hispanics and their health.
The Hispanic population in the United States represents a diverse array of ancestry, culture, socio-economic conditions and needs. It is important to remember that Hispanics are a very heterogenous group, despite the fact that they speak the same language and share a number of cultural commonalities. In spite of their differences, there are a number of commonly consumed foods in all Hispanic countries that are packed with essential nutrients. Hispanic cuisine is bursting with color and excitement. Hispanic foods reflect a history of many influences, resulting in an abundance of variety and nutritional elements. Below are my top five favorite Hispanic foods, which pack an abundance of essential nutrients. Viva la Latino cuisine!
Fish and seafood – Fish and seafood naturally contain omega-3-fatty acids, which are essential for proper brain development and growth. It is by far one of the healthiest fats around. Fish and seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, and popular tilapia, to name a few, are natural sources of :
• Lean protein
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin B
• Vitamin D
Beans – According to the U.S. Dry Beans Council, beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein and minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. They are rich in folic acid, which may help with the reduction of such birth defects as Spina Bifida and also protect against heart disease. They are rich in soluble dietary fiber, which helps to bring down cholesterol levels, and also contain estrogens of vegetable origin, which contribute towards reducing certain cancers caused by hormonal action.
Mangos – One cup of mango provides:
• 100% vitamin C, an important antioxidant that promotes a healthy immune function and collagen formation.
• 35% vitamin A, another powerful antioxidant and an important nutrient for healthy vision and bone growth.
• 12% of your daily dietary fiber. Studies have confirmed that diets low in fat and high in fiber-containing grains ducts, fruits and vegetables may be associated with a reduced risk of some types of cancer.
• Mangoes are fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free, which means they can be part of a heart healthy diet.
Papayas – Papayas contain large amounts of antioxidants and folate. They are also rich in Vitamin A and C.
Sweet potatoes (camote) – Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and are a good source of fiber.
Below are a few recipes to help you incorporate some of those wonderful nutrients found in Hispanic foods:
Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos
Yield: 4 tacos
2 (7.6 ounces) packages Gorton’s frozen grilled tilapia fillets in garlic butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground chile ancho
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice, divided
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
3 cups shredded lettuce or coleslaw
4 corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 cup finely shredded Mexican-style cheese
Sprinkle fillets with 1 tablespoon lime juice; rub with garlic powder and chile seasonings.
In a medium skillet, spray with no-stick cooking spray, and cook seasoned filets over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with fork, drizzling fish with 1 tablespoon of the remaining lime juice for the last minute. Flake with fork into bite-size pieces.
In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, remaining lime juice and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Add to lettuce; gently fold all the ingredients.
To serve, build tortillas with lettuce mix, prepared fish, cheese and remaining cilantro.
Fiesta Fruit Salad
Yield: 4 servings (~1 cup for each serving)
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
1 cup strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup honeydew melon, cut in chunks
1/2 cup papaya, peeled and cubed
1 cup mango, peeled and diced
½ to 1 cup vanilla low fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, fold all ingredients together gently.
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Ginger
Yield: 6 servings (~1 cup for each serving)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch round slices
2 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes with oil. Add cinnamon-ginger spice mixture and toss to coat.
In a shallow baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, spread sweet potatoes in a single layer .
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender and slightly browned, turning halfway through the baking time.