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Are Wheat Taco Shells Better for You Than Corn?

By Allison Stevens

In the quest to eat more healthfully, you have probably eliminated white flour from your list of go-to items. This shrinks your taco shell choices down to either corn or whole wheat. However, the question of what type of shell is better for your taco may be tougher to answer than you would think. On the journey for the healthiest taco, you'll want to take several factors into consideration, then choose the shell that's right for you.

Whole Grains

With so many types of tortillas and taco shells on the market, the first factor to consider when choosing "healthy" is whether the shell is made from whole grains. According to the Whole Grains Council, choosing whole over refined grains reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, as well as helps you maintain a healthy weight. Both corn and wheat tortilla shells may contain these important nutritional elements, but be sure by checking the ingredient list for the words "whole wheat," "whole grain" or "whole cornmeal."

Trans Fats

Taco shells take a regular tortilla, fold it in half, and either bake or fry it to make it crunchy. While this may make your taco more fun to eat, it can also add unwanted trans fats into your diet. Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, negatively impacting your cholesterol and increasing your risk of heart disease when consumed regularly. Again, whole wheat and corn taco shells may both include trans fats. Look for the term "partially hydrogenated" on food labels to eliminate this ingredient from your meal planning.

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Genetically Modified Foods

When weighing all the factors of how foods affect your health, you may want to consider whether the food has been genetically modified. This means that the food has been engineered or altered in a laboratory, usually to grow bigger or be less affected by insects. There are concerns that introducing new genes to our foods may cause new allergic reactions. More studies are needed to understand all the harmful affects of genetically modified foods on humans. If this risk concerns you, whole wheat would be a safer choice than the more-often-modified corn.

Other Factors

If you are hoping to create the healthiest taco that is still delicious and filling, consider switching from the hard taco shell to the tortilla. Whether baked or fried, the plain tortilla usually has fewer grams of fat and calories. Choose the type with the highest fiber content for better digestive health. Also, when you choose fillings for your taco, pick lean cuts of meat and dress it up with salsa, lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Skip the sour cream, full-fat cheese, and calorie-laden guacamole. Watch serving sizes too. Tortillas and shells range vastly in size, so choose the smallest and fill it wisely.

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