Is birria healthy? Like many foods, the answer isn’t black and white. There are nutrition benefits to birria, but there are also things to be aware of.
As a Latina dietitian, I get a lot of questions about how to eat healthy while enjoying Latin American cultural foods. The truth is Latin American food is full of nourishing foods, and can form the basis of an overall healthy diet!
While some people may see foods like birria as unhealthy, it’s not that simple. If you want to get the full picture of nutrition benefits and drawbacks of birria, this post is for you.
Keep reading to learn the nutrition facts of birria. We’ll also go over how to build a balanced plate while enjoying birria.
What is Birria?
Birria is a traditional Mexican stew. It features braised meat (usually beef or goat) in a rich broth, as well as traditional Mexican herbs and spices.
One of the signature features of birria is that the consommé (the broth) is typically red, usually from chiles or tomato.
The most traditional version of birria features goat, although beef birria is very popular in some regions, including California.
The word birria refers to the stew with meat and consomme. Birria has also become a popular filling for other Mexican foods like tacos. In a birria taco, the tortilla is also dipped into the consommé before serving.
You may have even seen a quesabirria taco, which adds cheese to the birria taco.
Is Birria healthy?
Birria in and of itself is a nutritious food. It features meat in a broth with vegetables. However, there’s a lot of variety in how birria is served and this can make a difference.
Birria nutrition facts
I pulled one example of birria to take a look at its nutrition facts. Keep in mind this is just one recipe. There may be variations depending on how it’s made.
|Iron||11% daily value|
|Potassium||6% daily value|
These nutrition facts will differ depending on if goat or beef is used. Goat meat is lower in fat and higher in iron than beef, for instance.
These nutrition facts are just for the stew itself. It doesn’t account for any tortillas or cheese added to the dish.
While birria tacos may seem decadent, birria itself is a relatively simple and nourishing food.
Birria is a good source of high quality protein, and provides good amounts of iron and potassium. You can get even higher iron and lower fat birria if you choose birria made with goat meat.
Like many Mexican soups and stews, it’s common to serve plenty of vegetable garnishes with birria. You can add 2 tablespoons each of onion and cilantro for a small vegetable serving!
Plus, the consomme in birria features chile peppers and herbs and spices. All of which are anti-inflammatory and provide important antioxidants.
The biggest concern people may have about birria is the saturated fat. Yes, that richness in the consomme comes from saturated fat. Saturated fat is associated with heart disease and inflammation (1, 2).
Of course, there is still room for saturated fat in an overall healthy diet. My goal is not for my clients to eliminate saturated fat completely, but to emphasize unsaturated fats more.
If you’re concerned about the saturated fat, you could choose birria made from goat which is lower in fat. You could also choose chicken birria or even some of the vegan options that have become popular recently (recipe ideas below).
There is also a growing movement for Latinos to embrace plant-based diets. Partially because of the understanding that livestock animals like cows, pigs, and goats, were not historically a part of the diet in Latin America until European contact.
As a dietitian, I know red meat can be part of a healthy diet. But I respect everyone’s right to choose the diet that works best for them. And I understand why people may not wish to eat Mexican dishes featuring red meat as often.
Here are some ideas for anyone who wants to enjoy birria without red meat:
Are Birria Tacos Healthy?
Birria tacos can be a healthy meal. The consommé has anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, and the meat provides protein and iron. Corn tortillas provide fiber. You may want to add extra vegetables in the form of salsas, onion, and cilantro for a fully balanced meal.
My hope for this blog post is you’ll understand that birria can be a part of an overall healthy diet. If you have concerns about eating red meat and saturated fat, you can choose goat, chicken, or vegan birria instead.
To get a fully balanced meal, consider adding vegetables like salsa, onions, and cilantro to round out your birria.
Always remember there is no one food that needs to be completely eliminated from your diet, and context matters with nutrition!
I help Latinos embrace their heritage foods while living a healthy lifestyle. Start your journey with my free 5-day Latino meal planner tool. Sign up below to get your copy!