Are Tortilla Chips Healthy? The Answer May Surprise You!

They may be crunchy and totally addictive, but are tortilla chips healthy? The answer may surprise you!

As a Latina dietitian and super fan of all things tortilla-related, I’ve written a lot on the nutrition of corn and corn tortillas. 

One of the follow ups I usually hear in these conversations is someone saying something like “sure corn tortillas are healthy, but you just can’t have them fried like in a tostada or tortilla chips.” 

So it’s time to address the question: are tortilla chips healthy or not?

In this blog post we’ll look at the nutrition facts for tortilla chips, and go over the health benefits and any nutrition concerns. Finally, I’ll share some tips to choose healthier tortilla chips. 

Key Takeaway: Tortilla chips are fried, but they can still be part of a healthy diet. If you watch out for potentially high sodium and fat content, you can enjoy some of the benefits of the whole grain corn in tortilla chips. 

Basket of tortilla chips. text reads "are tortilla chips healthy?"

Tortilla Chips Nutrition Comparison

A 28-g serving of tortilla chips (about 16 chips) has the following nutrition content (1):

Calories140 kcal
Carbohydrates18 g
Fiber2 g
Protein2 g
Fat7 g
Sodium90 mg (4% daily limit)
Calcium20 mg (2% daily value)

Keep in mind this may vary from brand to brand, especially the sodium content. 

Nutrition Benefits

Before you automatically write off tortilla chips as unhealthy, keep in mind most foods can offer some nutrition benefits. Here are the nutrition benefits of tortilla chips. 

Whole Grain

You may be surprised to hear that tortilla chips are a whole grain food!

That’s because they’re made from corn, which is considered a whole grain according to the Whole Grains Council. 

Because they’re a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, whole grains are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (2). 

Made with Nixtamalized Corn

You may have been surprised to see that tortilla chips provide some calcium. 

This is because they are made with nixtamalized corn, which is higher in calcium than fresh corn (read more: what is Nixtamal?)

Nixtamalization also increases the amount of vitamin B3 and resistant starch in corn. 

Gluten-Free Snack

Not everyone needs to eat gluten-free to be healthy. But for anyone who does, tortilla chips are a naturally gluten-free snack thanks to the corn. 

infographic describing health benefits of tortilla chips. text reads "are tortilla chips healthy"

Nutrition Concerns

Despite the health benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to tortilla chips. Here’s what to keep in mind with tortilla chips. 

Portion Size

The eternal question: why is it so easy to snack away on crunchy, salty foods without realizing how much we’ve had?

As we saw above, a portion of tortilla chips has some health benefits, and can even be pretty moderate in sodium and fat. 

But it’s so easy to have 3, 4, even 5 portions in a sitting without realizing it, because they’re so crunchy and satisfying to eat. 

The main concern when having larger portions of tortilla chips is if you’re leaving out other nutrients that can help add balance, like vegetables and protein. 

If you’ve ever filled up on tortilla chips at a restaurant and didn’t have space for your meal, you’ve experienced this. 

This is why I recommend serving tortilla chips with the rest of your meal instead of beforehand. And make sure you have plenty of vegetables and protein at that meal (pro tip: salsa totally counts as a vegetable). 

Fried Foods

Of course, there are some health concerns with any fried foods. 

According to one study published by the American Heart Association, consumption of fried food is associated with higher risk of heart failure, regardless of the type of oil used. 

To reduce the risk, you can limit your portion sizes, or give baked tortilla chips a try. (Try my baked tortilla chips recipe). 

Fun fact: the original tortilla chips did not use any oil! There is evidence of pre-colonial Mexicans eating crispy wedges of leftover tortillas. But they did not start using oil or frying food until after European arrival. So don’t worry about baked tortilla chips being “less authentic.” 

Potentially high sodium

This one kind of depends on the brand. I’ve seen some brands of tortilla chips with as low as 75 mg sodium per serving, and others that are closer to 300 mg per serving. 

This may be important for you to consider if you have high blood pressure, since high sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk for other heart diseases (3). 

While 300 mg sodium is very low for an entire meal, since I recommend eating tortilla chips as part of a larger meal, I recommend looking for brands with less than 200 mg sodium/serving. 

How to Choose Healthier Tortilla Chips

It’s always difficult to talk about nutrition with processed foods like tortilla chips. There is potentially a huge difference between brands! 

With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind to help you choose healthy tortilla chips. 

Choose traditionally made tortilla chips:

Look for tortilla chips that are actually made from corn tortillas. This is the difference between tortilla chips and regular corn chips. 

Choose tortilla chips with the term “lime” or “corn masa” on the label to ensure you choose the right kind. 

(Hint: Tostitos don’t pass this test, as much as I love them.)

Traditional tortilla chips made with nixtamalized corn tend to have the following nutrition advantages over other varieties:

  • Lower sodium
  • Higher calcium
  • Lower glycemic index (impact on blood sugar)

Stick to plain chips:

For the lowest sodium option, choose plain tortilla chips instead of any flavors. 

Serve with salsa

For an extra helping of vegetables and fiber, serve your tortilla chips with salsa!

Final Thoughts

It’s understandable to have concerns about the fat and sodium in fried tortilla chips. But that doesn’t mean they have zero health benefits to offer.

And in fact, you can still enjoy tortilla chips as part of a healthy meal, even nachos

Here at Nutrition con Sabor, we don’t do food shaming, and we believe all foods have something to offer us. This is especially true for traditional Latin American foods!

Looking for a nutrition resource that says “no gracias” to food shame and centers your favorite Latino foods? That’s what we do here! Get started with a free 1-week Mexican meal plan to see what we’re all about. Get your copy when you sign up below.


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