Latina Dietitian Answers: Is Mexican Food High in Cholesterol?

Many of my clients have walked out of their annual physical wondering “is Mexican food high in cholesterol? Should I eat something else?”

More often than not, my clients are getting this message from people who don’t fully understand how healthy Mexican food is. 

But there’s more and more evidence building suggesting that a traditional Mexican diet can have heart health benefits, including lowering cholesterol. 

Curious how Mexican food can actually be good for your cholesterol? Keep reading! We’ll go over what makes a Mexican diet cholesterol-friendly, as well as my most recommended Mexican foods to help lower your cholesterol.

Let’s jump in!

Key Takeaway: A traditional Mexican diet that includes plenty of beans, corn, and traditional Mexican vegetables like avocado and nopales can help lower your cholesterol. 

photo collage of mexican foods that are good for cholesterol like beans and avocado

Mexican-Americans Face High Rates of High Cholesterol

This misconception about Mexican food and cholesterol partially comes from the fact that Latinos face higher rates of high cholesterol (1).

One study by the American Heart Association found that about 45% of Mexican-Americans have high cholesterol (2). 

Hearing these facts, it’s easy to think it must be due to Mexican food, but the truth is much more complicated than that. 

While nutrition can contribute to high cholesterol, there are also other factors like stress, medications, and genetics

In fact, researchers have been investigating a specific gene variant that may be associated with higher cholesterol in the Hispanic population (3, 4, 5). 

So while it’s true that Mexican-Americans have a higher risk for high cholesterol, it’s not just because of our food. 

Is Mexican Food Bad for Cholesterol?

While food isn’t the only cause of high cholesterol, it can contribute. But that doesn’t mean that Mexican food is bad for cholesterol.

In fact, there’s more and more research suggesting that a traditional Mexican diet is actually good for cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease. 

A study from 2023 found that following a traditional Mexican diet was associated with lower LDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”) (6). 

And it’s not just cholesterol. A traditional Mexican diet has been associated with improvements in other risk factors for heart disease, including lowering inflammation.

What makes Mexican food good for cholesterol?

One of the main nutrition factors that contributes to high cholesterol is saturated fat intake.

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends people with high cholesterol lower their saturated fat intake to no more than 11-13 g per day (for the average adult).

Saturated fat is the fat you’ll mostly find in animal products like red meat, dairy, and chicken skin, to name a few examples.

While Mexican food has all of these elements, it also features plenty of lean plant-based proteins (like beans) and heart-healthy unsaturated fats (like avocado).

In fact, the most traditional Mexican diet is actually relatively low fat. This is a diet high in beans, corn, squash, and tomatoes. This may or may not be reflective of the Mexican food you know and love today. 

But even if you’re used to eating a lot of animal products with your Mexican food, there are still many cholesterol-friendly Mexican foods that are just as popular today as ever. These include:

  • Mexican vegetables like tomato, avocado, cabbage, nopales, squash, and more
  • Mexican fruits like prickly pear, guava, mango, and papaya
  • Beans, lentils, and garbanzos
  • High fiber carbs like corn tortillas
  • Heart healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and more

Cholesterol-Lowering Mexican Foods to Try

Besides just having plenty of low-saturated fat options to choose from, there are plenty of Mexican foods that can help lower bad cholesterol, or increase your good cholesterol!

In addition to emphasizing low saturated fat foods, you can improve your cholesterol by increasing unsaturated fats and fiber (7, 8).

When you replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats you may see a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol (9).

Adding fiber–particularly soluble fiber–to your diet can also help improve your cholesterol (10). Soluble fiber lowers fiber by binding with cholesterol and removing it from the body (11). 

With that in mind, here are the best Mexican foods for your cholesterol. 


Avocado has not one but two nutrients that are good for your cholesterol–unsaturated fats and fiber! 

One serving of avocado provides about 5 g of monounsaturated fats (12). 

Avocados are also a very rich source of fiber. One serving of avocado provides about 9-13% of your daily fiber intake, depending on your needs (13). 

One study found that higher avocado intake was associated with lower risk of heart disease (14). Similarly, a systematic review found that avocado caused moderate to large reductions in LDL cholesterol (15).

Avocados are a staple of Mexican food, and are incredibly easy to add to any of your favorite Mexican meals. Make guacamole, add avocado slices to your eggs, or add diced avocado to pozole.


Nopales are the green pads of the prickly pear cactus. Once you remove the thorns, you can prepare and serve them like any other green vegetable.

Nopales have a gel-like mucilage (similar to okra), that is made up of pectins and gums. This mucilage makes up most of the soluble fiber in nopales (16). This is the type of fiber that can help remove cholesterol from your body. 

One randomized controlled trial in mice found that mice fed a diet that included nopal (among other Mexican traditional foods) had reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (17).

A similar study in humans found that people who added a blend of nopal, avocado, bean, and cacao to their diets saw reductions in total cholesterol (18). 

Want to learn more about nopales? I wrote an entire blog post on the benefits of nopales. Give it a read!


Of course it wouldn’t be a list of cholesterol-friendly Mexican foods if I didn’t include beans! 

Beans are a staple in Mexican food, and you’ll find them at most meals. They could be black beans, pinto beans, canary beans, or more. 

The main reasons beans are so great for cholesterol is because of their high fiber content. 100 grams of beans provides about 7 g of fiber, or 20-28% of your daily fiber needs (19). 

Adults who ate 1 cup of canned beans a day saw reductions in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, according to one study (20). 

And a systematic review found that beans reduced LDL cholesterol, as well as risk of heart disease (21). 

Corn Tortillas

Yes, despite what you may have heard about tortillas and carbs, corn tortillas are one of my top picks for cholesterol-lowering Mexican foods! 

You see, corn tortillas are a good source of resistant starch. 

The resistant starch in corn tortillas forms thanks to the nixtamalization process, which is how we take corn kernels and turn them into corn masa for tortillas.

Nixtamalization increases resistant starch, among other nutrition benefits.

And resistant starch behaves very similarly to soluble fiber (22). 

A meta-analysis indicated that resistant starch was effective at lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (23). 

My Favorite Low Cholesterol Mexican Meals

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you that Mexican food can be great for your cholesterol!

But if you still need some ideas of what Mexican meals to prepare that can help improve your cholesterol, here are my top picks:

  • Avocado tostada with chicken: This one combines the fiber from the tostada and avocado with the heart-healthy unsaturated fats in avocado. Plus using chicken breast will provide protein without extra saturated fats. 
  • Simple nopalitos salad with black beans: Combine the soluble fiber in nopales and black beans for a refreshing, cholesterol-friendly salad. The dressing provides heart-healthy fats. Serve with a tostada for even more fiber!
  • Nopal cucumber smoothie: Okay so this one’s more of a snack. But nopal smoothies are a super popular health drink in Mexico! I added pineapple and cucumber for a super refreshing flavor. 
  • Chicken enchiladas verdes: combine the fiber in corn tortillas with a low saturated fat protein from chicken. You may need to decrease the cheese used to suit your cholesterol goals. 
  • Tuna ceviche: tuna is a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. 
  • Chicken fajitas: Serve with corn tortillas and avocado slices for an even more cholesterol-friendly meal. 

Final Thoughts

Despite popular opinion, a traditional Mexican diet can be great for your cholesterol. This means a diet that includes plenty of beans, corn, and traditional Mexican fruits and vegetables. 

As a Latina dietitian, I can help Latinas improve their cholesterol without giving up their favorite Latin American foods. 

Are you ready to start eating a healthy, nutritious diet that makes room for your favorite Latin American foods? Get started with a free 1-week Mexican meal plan! Grab your copy when you sign up for my email list below.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top