Many world cuisines have been introduced to us in recent times, especially since the 2010s. From mochi ice creams, sushi, freak shakes to kombucha and burritos, many had come and gone, but one that really stayed and cemented a place for itself in the Indian palette is none other than TACOS.
A traditional Mexican dish, tacos are small hand-sized corn or wheat tortilla (something like our roti, but made with corn or lard) topped with a filling - which can be chicken, seafood, beans, vegetables, cheese, and more.
Versatile and delicious, tacos have some health benefits accorded to it as well. The combination of vegetables, herbs, spices, and well-cooked meat, when consumed in limited quantities, can be relatively healthy. Before getting into the health perspective of tacos, here are some fun facts about tacos for you.
Do Tacos Have Any Health Benefits?
A corn taco containing cheese, chicken, cheese, and lettuce will have the following nutrients :
- Total fat 6 g
- Cholesterol 29 mg
- Sodium 613 mg
- Potassium 217 mg
- Total carbohydrate 20 g
- Dietary fibre 1.2 g
- Protein 13 g
And also contains vitamins A, B-12, and B-6, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Some of the health benefits of tacos are as follows:
- Provide energy (due to calories)
- Strengthen bones (calcium) 
- Help to repair body cell (proteins)
- Maintain normal heartbeat (potassium)
- Prevent scurvy (vitamin C)
- Promote good digestion (iceberg lettuce and tomatoes) 
- Relieve constipation (fibre)
- Lowers blood pressure (potassium) 
Note: These health benefits indicate the benefits that can be gained from eating a taco that has a filling of vegetables, herbs and spices, and minimum meat.
With most restaurants being shut and food trucks absent from the roadsides, you might be missing out on your taco fix, and we are here to save you. Below is a list of HEALTHY TACO toppings that you can try at home. Take a look at the 16 options of healthy toppings for tacos.
A bowl of chickpeas can keep your tummy full for at least five hours and help healthily ease the hunger pangs. These legumes are rich in essential nutrients like protein, fibre, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, carbohydrate, and folate. Some of the common health benefits of eating chickpeas are as follows:
- Manages gestational diabetes 
- Beneficial for pregnant women 
- Prevents anaemia
- Treats constipation
- Improves digestion
- Excellent replacement for meat in vegetarian and vegan diets 
Packed with antioxidants and a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin K, tomatoes make a healthy and tangy topping for your tacos . A fruit and not a vegetable, the red (mostly) juicy wonders are packed with various health benefits. From ketchup to passata, tomatoes are in fact a real wonder which knows no limitations when it comes to food varieties. The common health benefits of tomatoes are as follows:
- Reduced risk of heart disease and cancer 
- Beneficial for skin health
- Help lower bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Fights off inflammation and markers of oxidative stress
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Avocados are low in saturated fat and high in potassium. The fruit also offers nearly twenty vitamins and minerals in every serving, including potassium, lutein, and folate . Avocados are low in carbs and a great source of fibre, with each serving containing only 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which come from the fibre. The common health benefits of avocados are as follows:
- Aids weight loss
- Improves digestion
- Lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Help absorb nutrients from plant foods (yay for vegans) 
- Reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration 
4. Plain Greek Yoghurt
Possessing a plethora of health benefits, Greek yoghurt is an easy fix for hunger pangs and helps neutralise the acids in your stomach . Instead of using sour cream (fat) in your tacos, use Greek Yoghurt instead while reducing fat and increasing the protein intake. Some of the common health benefits of Greek yoghurt are as follows:
- Promotes healthy bacteria growth in the digestive tract 
- Improves bone health
- May help lower blood pressure levels
- Improves vaginal health
- Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes 
One of the best sources of vitamin D, mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D . All types of edible mushrooms contain varying degrees of protein and fibre, as well as B vitamins that are extremely good for your overall health. The health benefits of mushrooms are as follows:
- Helps support the immune system
- Prevents damage to cells and tissues
- Help protect the heart and digestive health 
- Improves skin quality
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Nutritious and a cheap source of protein, lentils are rich in fibre, iron and magnesium . Since lentils are small in size, it can be easily sprinkled on top of your tacos to get a healthy boost. The health benefits of lentils are as follows:
- Prevents the onset of cancer
- Promotes heart health
- Increases energy levels
- Helps build muscles and cells 
- Fights of fatigue
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7. Bell Peppers/Capsicum
Bright in colour and somewhat sweet in taste, bell peppers or capsicums come in a variety of colours ranging from green to purple. While the green and purple peppers are slightly bitter, the red, yellow and orange ones are sweeter. Rich in vitamin A, C and E and certain minerals like cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, manganese and potassium, the fruit-vegetable is an excellent addition to your tacos, giving it a nice crunch . Some of the common health benefits of bell peppers or capsicums are as follows:
- Boosts metabolism
- Relieves pain
- Improves immunity
- Prevents cellular damage 
- Treats gastrointestinal disorders
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Fresh fruit toppings for tacos is an easy way to improve the taste, especially of seafood tacos. Among all the fruits, pineapple is considered to be the best topping for tacos, as the fruit's saltiness goes well with the saltiness of the seafood. Packed with magnesium and proteins, the health benefits of pineapple are as follows:
- May boost immunity
- Help improve digestion 
- Suppresses inflammation
- May help ease arthritis symptoms
- May speed up recovery after surgery 
Although you can use boiled corn, roasted corn not only gives a smoky flavour to the tacos but are rich in nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 . Some of the benefits of roasted corn are as follows :
- Lowers blood sugar and cholesterol level
- Helpful during pregnancy
- Preserves healthy skin
- Improves energy levels
- Reduces the risk of anaemia 
10. Black Beans
Adding legumes to your food is always a healthy option. Topping your tacos with some baked or boiled black beans can elevate the food's health quotient due to the presence of fibre and folate. Black beans can also be used instead of meat. The health benefits of black beans are as follows :
- Improves red blood cell growth
- Improves digestion
- Help manage diabetes
- Reduces blood pressure
- Maintains healthy bones
Roasted or baked pumpkin would make a great addition to your tacos. A versatile vegetable (or a fruit), pumpkins are slept on. Highly nutritious and extremely rich in vitamin A, adding pumpkin to your taco not only brings out new flavours but also added health benefits, such as the following :
- Boosts immunity
- Improves eyesight
- Reduces the risk of chronic diseases
- Promotes weight loss
- May lower cancer cell growth
- May benefit heart health
Some of the other healthy additions for your tacos are as follows:
- Fresh cilantro - boosts flavour and adds antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Kimchi - the fermented food provides probiotics that promote gut health and digestion.
- Feta cheese - use this cheese instead of your regular cheese to reduce the overall fat content in your taco.
- Quinoa - highly nutritional and considered a superfood, quinoa is gluten-free .
- Guacamole - a mixture of avocados, lime juice, salt, onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic, this topping makes for a spicy and tangy taco.
You can also make your tacos healthy through the following options:
- Make the salsa at home to avoid excess sodium and additives.
- Go dairy-free by skipping the cheese, sour cream, or Greek yoghurt.
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Healthy Taco Recipes
1. Vegan Chickpea Taco Recipe
- One small cup chickpeas drained and rinsed
- One tomato, chopped
- Small piece of smoked or boiled pumpkin, chopped or sliced
- ¾ cup of water
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp pepper powder
- ½ tsp salt or to taste
- ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Slice of lemon
- Four taco shells
- Place chickpeas in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add water and the seasoning (paprika and cumin).
- Cook and stir until thoroughly heated, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and mash mixture to crush chickpeas.
- Add the chopped cilantro, lemon juice and mix well.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper powder.
- Divide chickpea filling evenly among taco shells.
- Then, add the pumpkin and tomato and top with cilantro before biting into your healthy taco.
Note: You can add any meat of your choosing.
2. Breakfast Tacos
- Four tacos
- One egg
- Small piece of avocado, sliced
- One small tomato, sliced
- ½ cup of boiled black beans
- Cilantro, chopped
- Heat the tortillas over medium heat in a pan and set aside.
- Cook the eggs over medium heat (you can boil it or scramble the eggs) and place it in the taco.
- Heat the black beans and place in the tacos.
- Now, top with the sliced tomato and avocado.
- Top with cilantro and enjoy!
On A Final Note…
Most foods CAN be healthy when prepared healthily. It is all about the ingredients and way of preparation that decides the health quotient of the food you consume. So, eating your tacos with these toppings is a great way to spruce up your lockdown menu, guilt-free.
Do try these toppings and let us know which you liked the most!