August 1, 2007 / 2:27 PM / 12 years ago

Blue corn tortillas pack greater nutritional punch

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Blue corn tortillas have more protein and less starch than the more common version made with white corn, Mexican and Venezuelan researchers report.

“There are also more antioxidant properties in these tortillas and a higher nutritional value,” Dr. Luis A. Bello-Perez of the Centro de Desarrollo de Productos Bioticos del IPN in Morelos, Mexico, principal study author, told Reuters Health.

“We think that with this study there might be a rise in consumption of blue tortillas,” he added. “They have a lot of properties that can help for example fight colon cancer and other illnesses.”

Corn comes in a rainbow of colors, including violet, blue, and black, Bello-Perez and his team note in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Darker varieties contain greater quantities of pigments called anthocyanins.

“Nowadays, anthocyanins are of great interest from the nutriceutical or functional nutrition viewpoint owing to their perceived potential health benefits; they are considered natural antioxidants in view of their ability to trap free radicals, which produce molecular and cell damage,” the researchers write. Many people also prefer the softer texture and sweeter flavor of tortillas made with pigmented corn, they add.

In a series of tests comparing the nutritional composition of blue corn tortillas and white corn tortillas made using traditional methods, Bello-Perez and his colleagues found that the blue corn tortillas contained about 20 percent more protein than the white corn version and about 1.7 times the amount of fat.

However, Bello-Perez noted in an interview, both types of tortilla are fairly low in fat.

White corn tortillas contained about 75 percent total starch, compared with about 69 percent for blue corn tortillas, and also had a higher glycemic index.

The glycemic index of a food refers to how quickly sugar is released into the blood after the food is eaten. Foods with a high glycemic index enter the blood quickly, causing a surge in blood sugar, while foods with a low glycemic index release sugar into the blood at a slow and steady rate.

Therefore, the lower glycemic index of blue corn tortillas may make them a more attractive choice for people with obesity or diabetes, the researchers note.

SOURCE: Journal of Science in Food and Agriculture, July 30, 2007.

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