The rise of #TacoTuesdays and chains like Chipotle, Taco Bell, and other Mexican restaurants has led to almost 40,000 Mexican restaurants all across the country. However, finding authentic Mexican cuisine can be a little trickier unless you go south of the border. Some Mexican restaurants are working to change that and showcase the nutritional benefits of Mexican food. Mexican food isn’t all high sodium and high fat, like what you can find in many Mexican fast food restaurants in America. There are plenty of vegetables, nutritious spices, protein-filled beans, and tortillas full of fiber in authentic Mexican cuisine. Some business owners are working towards creating more casual restaurant chains that are authentic and nutritious, but allow people to “grab and go.”
The Popularity of Mexican Food in the United States
Mexican food is the most popular type of international cuisine in the United States, with one of out of 10 restaurants serving Mexican food. At home, over 70% of households in America use Mexican ingredients or food. Mexican food is responsible for over 40% of ethnic food sales in the United States and salsa is actually the top condiment across the nation (leaving ketchup and mayo far behind). And since 2010, tortillas have been outselling hot dog buns.
This may be in part to the invention of Tex-Mex in the 1940s, which helped introduce Mexican food in a more mainstream way. Tex-Mex is a great example of how our two countries have integrated, as the resulting cuisine is a fusion of the two. However, real Mexican cuisine has its origins in what the Mayan Indians cooked 2,000 years ago and tortillas being used as wraps can be traced back to the Aztecs.
Americans’ food profiles and tastes have benefitted from the “melting pot” and around 75% of consumers are constantly looking for new flavors in ethnic cuisines. Over 65% want to experience bolder flavors and foods they don’t know — both of which Mexican cuisine has to offer.
What Are Some of the Health Benefits of Mexican Food?
Many of the spices used in Mexican cooking like cumin, cocoa powder, chilies, garlic, and cinnamon are beneficial for heart and brain health or can provide important nutrients like iron. Fresh vegetables and fruits like corn, tomatillos, avocados, limes, and tomatoes often contain important quantities of Vitamins A, B, and C, provide you with “healthy fats,” and corn and beans together provide a complete protein. (This can make Mexican cuisine a great choice for vegetarians, as it ensures that you’ll get the right kind of protein in one meal.)
Raw, crunchy vegetables, citrus, and a variety of meats and vegetables are often used in just one dish, providing your body with a wealth of options to sustain it.
Use cheese, sour cream, and fatty refried beans sparingly — everything is okay in moderation, but if that’s the only kind of Mexican food you’re being exposed to, you’re really missing out on the depth and flavor that authentic Mexican cuisine can provide.
What Should I Try At a Mexican Restaurant?
You’re probably familiar with at least some of the options on a traditional Mexican menu, like burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and tacos, thanks to the fast food options available. However, these options are going to be a little different in terms of quality and flavor than you would get at a fast food joint.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try ceviche — raw seafood that’s tossed with acidic marinades, which “cooks” the seafood — which is very light and refreshing. Mole sauce is a warm and velvety experience that tastes wonderful over chicken and chilaquiles are a delightfully crunchy and tangy dish.
When in doubt, you can ask your server what he or she recommends, or what popular dishes are. The restaurant may also have specialties that you won’t find at other restaurants or that aren’t usually on the menu — take advantage of those and try something new!
Do yourself a favor and try authentic Mexican cuisine next time you decide to go out to eat. It’s an experience you’ll want to repeat again and again.