Corn vs Flour Tortillas: Which is Healthier?

Curious if corn or flour tortillas are healthier? You’ve come to the right place!

As a Latina dietitian and super nerd about Mexican food, I’m more than a little obsessed with tortillas. So I’m excited to sit down and talk about all things tortillas and nutrition with you!

While I’ve already spent some time taste testing and finding the healthiest store bought tortillas, I wanted to take a moment to zoom out and compare and contrast corn tortillas vs flour tortillas more generally,

Both corn and flour tortillas can easily be part of your overall healthy diet, but there are nutrition pros and cons to each option. 

In this post I’ll break down the nutrition differences between corn and flour tortillas, and help you decide which one is best for you. 

Key takeaway: Corn tortillas are a whole grain food. They are a good source of fiber, as well as vitamin B3 and calcium. Flour tortillas are lower in fiber and often made with lard. But flour tortillas are made with fortified flour, making them a better source of iron and folate. 

corn tortillas and flour tortillas on a tortilla warmer. text reads corn vs flour tortillas

Which tortilla is more authentic?

While I love the love and recognition corn tortillas have been receiving lately, it’s not true that corn tortillas are necessarily “more authentic” than flour tortillas.

Which tortilla is most authentic depends on the region of Mexico, as well as the dish being prepared. 

Flour tortillas tend to be more traditional in Northern Mexico, for instance. And my mom (who is from Jalisco) has always made tortillas that are a blend of wheat flour and corn masa. 

Corn Tortilla Nutrition 

Part of what makes corn tortillas so unique is the process they go through to go from dried corn kernel to masa dough. This process is called nixtamalization, and it introduces a lot of health benefits to corn. 

Some of the nutrition changes that come from nixtamalization include increasing resistant starch, increasing availability of vitamin B3, increasing calcium, and more. 

If you want to know more about this process, check out the blog post I wrote about the nixtamalization process and its nutritional benefits. 

Nutrition facts

1 6” corn tortilla has the following nutrient content (1):

Calories58 kcal
Carbohydrates12 g
Fiber1.3 g
Protein1.5 g
Fat0.7 g
Calcium46 mg
Iron0.4 mg
Vitamin B30.4 mg
Folate29.6 mcg

Nutrition benefits

  • Whole grain food: organizations such as the American Heart Association and WIC consider corn tortillas to be a whole grain food. Whole grains can help protect against heart disease and cancer (2). 
  • Antioxidants: yellow corn and blue corn tortillas are good sources of antioxidants like lutein and anthocyanins, respectively (3). Antioxidants can help protect against chronic disease by protecting against damage from free radicals (4). 
  • Resistant starch: The process of nixtamalization forms resistant starch in corn tortillas. Resistant starch promotes healthy gut bacteria, and helps manage blood sugar control (5). 
  • Source of vitamin B3: The niacin (vitamin B3) is more available in corn tortillas than in fresh corn. Vitamin B3 is an essential vitamin that helps convert food into energy. Vitamin B3 deficiency is the major cause of the disease pellagra (6). 
  • Source of calcium: Nixtamalized corn tortillas can be a good source of calcium, depending on the nixtamalization technique used. 
  • Good for cholesterol: I included corn tortillas in my list of best Mexican foods for cholesterol, because they have no saturated fat, and they’re a good source of fiber, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol. 

Nutrition drawbacks

  • Not a good source of folate: Latina women are more at risk for folic acid deficiency. Since corn tortillas are not fortified with folic acid, Latina women eat fewer fortified grains overall.

Flour Tortilla Nutrition Facts

Nutrition facts

1 6” flour tortilla has the following nutrient content (7):

Calories92 kcal
Carbohydrates15 g
Fiber1 g
Protein2.5 g
Fat2.4 g
Calcium44 mg
Iron1 mg
Vitamin B31.3 mg
Folate28.2 mcg

Nutrition benefits

  • Good source of folate: Most wheat flour products, including flour tortillas, are enriched with folic acid. Folic acid fortification has decreased neural tube defects by approximately 30% since it was implemented. 
  • Good source of iron: Like folic acid, flour tortillas are enriched with iron. This can help prevent iron deficiency anemia (8). 

Nutrition drawbacks

  • Lower fiber: Made with refined wheat flour, flour tortillas are usually low in fiber. In addition to missing out on the gut health benefits of fiber, this also means you won’t find them as filling as a high fiber option like corn tortillas. 
  • Often made with lard: Traditionally flour tortillas usually have lard, and many store bought versions have another fat source. While this doesn’t automatically make them unhealthy, it’s something to keep in mind, especially if you’re watching your cholesterol.

Which is healthier?

In most cases, corn tortillas are the healthier choice than flour tortillas. 

Corn tortillas are higher in fiber and resistant starch, which is good for helping you stay full between meals, promoting gut health, and for managing blood sugar. 

Flour tortillas, on the other hand, tend to be low in fiber because they are usually made from refined flour.

Flour tortillas are also traditionally made with lard, which can mean flour tortillas are a surprising source of saturated fat. This doesn’t make them bad for you, per se, but you want to be aware of it. Corn tortillas are typically completely fat free. 

Corn tortillas are also rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin B3, and can even be a good source of calcium. 

Where flour tortillas have an advantage is that they are usually made with fortified flour, making them a good source of iron and folate. 

But this might be changing soon. A new proposed bill in California would require tortilla manufacturers to fortify corn masa harina similar to how wheat flour is fortified. 

(Read more about folic acid fortification in tortillas here) 

Another point in favor of corn tortillas is the portion sizes. A serving of 3 corn tortillas provides an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for an average adult meal. For flour tortillas, it’s more like ½ or 1 flour tortilla, depending on the size. 

Most people can feel confident eating corn tortillas, knowing that they’re getting their whole grain servings in. 

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid flour tortillas, but you may have to look elsewhere to meet your daily fiber and whole grain requirements.

nutrition comparison of corn vs flour tortillas

The Big Picture

In most cases, corn tortillas are the healthier choice than flour tortillas. But flour tortillas still have their place!

What’s more important than always eating the best or healthiest food, is eating a good variety of foods. If you choose to eat flour tortillas more than corn tortillas, that just means you’ll have to look for your fiber sources in other foods. 

As a Latina dietitian, I’m here to help you celebrate Latin American foods for all their health benefits! Curious what that could look like for you? Check out my free 1-week Mexican meal plan. Get your copy when you sign up below. 


2 thoughts on “Corn vs Flour Tortillas: Which is Healthier?”

  1. Steve Musicant

    Doc told me to reduce breads rice and pasta.when
    I buy Mexican food rice always comes on plate.
    WHAT IS A SUBSTITUE for rice in t h e Mexican restaurant

    1. Krista Linares, MPH, RD

      Most likely it’s about portion size than about eliminating these foods. That being said, you could look at some traditional soups/stews that may not come with a side of rice. Or you could ask for more beans instead.

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