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Differences Between Corn vs. Flour Tortillas

Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on June 21, 2021

Most people prefer corn or flour tortillas based on taste. But do you know the nutritional differences between corn and flour tortillas?  

Pre-Columbian civilizations, like the Aztecs, used corn extensively in their diets. And corn tortillas are much more popular in modern Mexican cuisine. Flour tortillas didn’t exist until Spaniards brought wheat flour to the Americas. In the U.S., both versions are popular. 

A Side By Side Comparison

One 100-gram serving of corn tortilla includes:

  • Total calories: 159 
  • Protein: 4.55 grams 
  • Total fats: 2.27 grams 
  • Carbohydrate: 43.18 grams 
  • Fiber: 4.5 grams
  • Sugars: 2.27 grams
  • Calcium: 45 milligrams
  • Iron: 3.27 milligrams
  • Sodium: 136 milligrams
  • Vitamin C: 2.7 milligrams
  • Vitamin A: 227 International Units
  • Fats, total saturated: 1.14 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

A hundred grams of flour tortilla has:

  • ‌Total calories: 304 
  • Protein: 8.93 grams 
  • Total fat: 8.04 grams 
  • Carbohydrate: 48.21 grams 
  • Fiber: 1.8 grams
  • Sugars: 0 grams
  • Calcium: 179 milligrams
  • Iron: 0.64 milligrams
  • Sodium: 732 milligrams
  • Vitamin C: 0 milligrams
  • Vitamin A: 0 International Units
  • Fats, total saturated: 1.79 grams
  • Fats, total monosaturated: 2.68 grams
  • Fats, polyunsaturated: 1.79 grams
  • Trans fats: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Pros and Cons of Corn Tortillas

When it comes to nutrition, corn tortillas have the advantage of being made from whole grains, with fewer calories, sodium, and carbs but more fiber than flour tortillas. They’re also gluten-free.

As for cooking and eating, some people complain that corn tortillas break easily. That’s why they’re used to make tacos instead of burritos. Taste is a personal choice, but some people don’t like the texture of corn tortillas, especially store-bought ones, which can be dry.

The two most common types of corn tortillas are white and yellow corn tortillas. As their name suggests, the main difference is their color, based on whether they’re made with yellow or white corn kernels. Yellow corn tortillas have beta carotene, which gives them a slight edge over white. But, blue corn tortillas seem to be the healthiest choice of all.

Pros and Cons of Flour Tortillas

One thing stands out in the nutrition lists above: White flour tortillas have almost twice the calories and fat as corn tortillas. Those extra calories and fat, combined with a lack of fiber, mean that they should be eaten in moderation, or they might increase the risk of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or some cancers.

On the plus side, flour tortillas have more iron and calcium than corn tortillas. They’re also fluffier and hold up better under lots of toppings. But that durable texture and softness come from gluten.

If you don’t tolerate gluten well or if you have celiac disease, you may want to stick to corn tortillas or choose one of the gluten-free flour tortillas. 

If you don’t like the taste of corn tortillas, whole-wheat tortillas are a healthier choice than plain flour ones. Read the label to make sure whole wheat is the first ingredient. If a package of vegetable tortillas catches your eye, again check the label carefully. Some of these, like cauliflower tortillas, are generally healthy. But others like spinach tortillas are often made with refined flour and aren’t as healthy as you might think.  

Effects of Corn and Flour Tortillas on Your Health

As with any food item, there’s a big difference between handmade and mass-produced tortillas, regardless of whether they are made of wheat or corn. In general, mass-produced tortillas include preservatives. One way to be sure you know what’s in your tortillas is by making them yourself.

Also, think about portion size: Corn tortillas may have fewer calories, but they’re usually smaller than their flour counterparts. Having two or three corn tortillas instead of one flour tortilla probably won’t be better for you.

Show Sources

SOURCES:  

American Institute for Cancer Research: “Are Wheat Tortillas Healthier?”

Cleveland Clinic: “How to Pick Heart-Healthy Mexican Food.”

USDA: “Food Details, Nutrients, Corn Tortilla,” “Food Details, Nutrients, Flour Tortilla.”

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