Who doesn’t love a nice, warm corn tortilla now and again? They’re the perfect base for tacos, and even better, you can make the tortillas yourself if you’re so inclined. Yet you’ve recently started the keto diet and you’re wondering where, if anywhere, corn tortillas fit. Are they allowed on your diet?
At 13 grams of total carbs per serving, corn tortillas should not be a regular part of your keto diet. A few corn tortillas would easily put you close to the 50-gram daily carb threshold and interrupt the fat-burning process of ketosis.
In this article, we’ll discuss in greater detail the nutritional information of corn tortillas. We’ll also talk about whether these tasty tortillas are ever allowable on the keto diet and if so, when. You won’t want to miss it.
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What Are Corn Tortillas?
Before we get into all that, let’s talk about what corn tortillas are.
Tortillas are Mexican flatbread that is unleavened to prevent rising. To make tortillas, wheat flour is a popular choice, as is cornmeal, which is how you get corn tortillas.
The most authentic corn tortillas are hominy-based.
Hominy is a type of dried corn that’s nixtamalized or alkalized. That means the maize spends time soaking in potassium carbonate or limewater before it’s cleaned and hulled. The process of nixtamalization rids the maize of mycotoxins and aflatoxins.
In Mexico, corn tortillas come from black, blue, yellow, or white maize. Corn tortillas have existed since sometime before the pre-Columbian era and have been enjoyed for generations. You could munch on a corn tortilla on its own if you wanted to.
Much more often, they’re the base of Mexican dishes such as tortilla soup, chilaquiles, flautas, enchiladas, tostadas, and tacos.
Corn Tortilla Nutrition Facts (Including Carbs)
Are corn tortillas a healthy part of a diet, keto or otherwise? To answer that question, let’s examine the nutritional information of these tortillas. Per the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA, one ounce or 28.4 grams of corn tortilla contains:
The keto diet requires you to increase fats and protein while cutting carbs. Corn tortillas aren’t a great source of fat, with 0.8 grams of total fat, 0.2 of them monounsaturated fat and another 0.4 grams of polyunsaturated fat. They also contain 1.6 grams of protein, which again isn’t much.
Per serving, a corn tortilla has 13 grams of carbs. With your daily carb limit of 20 to 50 carbs daily on keto, you can see where corn tortillas aren’t really a keto-friendly choice.
That’s the carb load for the tortilla alone, by the way.
You’re not going to eat just the tortilla, but add ingredients like taco meat and cheese. If you made a chicken enchilada with a six-inch corn tortilla, then according to SparkRecipes, you’d ingest 22.6 grams of carbs.
An enchilada of that size also contains:
Sure, the enchilada is a good source of protein, but it’s unhealthy in a lot of other ways. Look at how much sodium you’d ingest! If by chance one enchilada didn’t fill you and you ate two, you’re practically at the 50-gram carb limit.
Times You Can Eat Corn Tortilla Carbs on Keto
Since carbs aren’t outright banned on keto, corn tortillas don’t have to be either. Here are a few times in which you may gladly welcome corn tortillas into your diet and your stomach.
You’re on Dirty Keto
We wrote about the dirty keto diet in a recent post. If you missed that, here’s a recap. Dirty keto is a relaxed form of the keto diet. Rather than fill your plate with nutritionally balanced foods like keto-friendly vegetables, seafood, or avocados, on dirty keto, you might eat a bun-less cheeseburger or other food that’s barely healthy.
You still have to limit your carbs to no more than 50 grams per day on the dirty keto diet, but its looser rules mean corn tortilla tacos or enchiladas would fit in perfectly into your imperfect meal plan.
It’s a Cheat Day
On a keto cheat day, you might skip tracking macros or allow yourself to eat closer to 50 grams of carbs, maybe a bit over. Cheat days give you something to look forward to, although they can stop ketosis in its tracks. Since your body will go back to burning carbs on your cheat day, reentering ketosis won’t be an immediate process.
Depending on how many grams of carbs you ingest and whether your body uses them as energy immediately or stores them in the liver as glycogens for later, you might have to wait a day or more to get back into ketosis. Being fat-adaptive can speed up the process.
Corn tortilla-based foods do make a great cheat day lunch, dinner, or even a snack.
You Plan to Exercise
Skipping the carbs before a sweat session might seem like a good idea, but it’s anything but. Your body needs energy to fuel your workout and keep you going afterward. You’ll affect your performance and cognition by eating a carb-free meal before your workout or not eating at all.
You Can Commit to Eating Just One Tortilla
At 14 grams of carbs, one corn tortilla on its own is not the end of the world unless you’re severely cutting carbs. For those sticking to a limit of 40 or 50 grams of carbs per day, 14 grams is allowable. By adding taco meat and cheese, you’re not stacking too many carbs onto your tortilla, but the same cannot be said of an enchilada.
You must have willpower though. Once you have your one corn tortilla, that’s it, no seconds. Make sure you make a filling side so you don’t leave the lunch or dinner table feeling unsatisfied.
Times to Avoid Corn Tortilla Carbs on Keto
Much more often than not, corn tortillas won’t be something you reach for all that often on keto. Here are several instances when you’ll have to refrain.
You Just Started Ketosis
Some keto dieters eat no more than 20 grams of carbs a day, especially if you’re eager to get into ketosis. At such a restricted carb limit, one corn tortilla alone would be nearly your entire allotment. You’d have to tiptoe around the carbs you eat for the rest of the day.
You’re Trying to Maintain Ketosis
You tested your ketones this morning and you’re officially in ketosis. That’s awesome, but once you get there, there are no guarantees you will stay. You have to continue reducing carbs so your body will burn fat for energy instead of the glucose from carbs.
You may stick to around 20 grams of carbs per day or gradually increase your load to 30 grams, in which case one corn tortilla is still about half of the carbs you can eat.
If you want to use a good portion of your carb allotment on one meal, that’s up to you, but evidence has shown that eating too many carbs in the morning compared to later in the day may impede fat burning and lead to cravings.
You’re Close to Your Carb Threshold
Whether you’re eating no more than 20 or 40 grams of carbs per day on keto, you have a limit. If you counted your net carbs and you’re at 35 out of 40 grams for the day, then you cannot eat a corn tortilla. It will put you over your carb load and possibly halt your ketosis.
Corn tortillas may be yummy, but you must eat them only occasionally on keto. At 14 grams of carbs, tortillas aren’t carb bombs nor are they light on carbs. Before a workout when you need carbs for fuel, a corn tortilla could be just the snack or meal you’re looking for.