If you're a runner, you may have heard about the wonders of pinole, a staple food consumed by a tribe of super runners in Mexico who run 50 to 100 miles a day for fun. Made from toasted maize and mixed with sugar and spices, pinole is used as a base for a drink or as a flour in baked goods such as biscuits or rolls. While sugar is one of its main ingredients, pinole does offer some health benefits.
Source of Energy
All the calories in pinole come from its carbohydrate content, which is 4 grams per tablespoon. Carbs are your body's preferred source of energy, especially when you're an athlete, because your body needs less oxygen when burning carbs as fuel compared to fats. In general, 45 to 65 percent of your calories should come from carbs -- and up to 70 percent for endurance athletes before competition. While pinole may be partly responsible for the incredible running skills of the tribe in Mexico, there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.
Help You Meet Your Iron Needs
Iron is a mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout your body. A number of groups, including children, teen girls and women of childbearing age, are at risk of not getting enough iron in their diet, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron needs range from 0.7 milligram for young children to 18 milligrams for women 19 to 50 years of age. With 0.7 milligram per tablespoon, pinole may help those groups at risk meet their iron needs.
Low in Sodium
Americans consume too much sodium, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Excessive sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure, which increases risk of heart and kidney disease. Pinole contains only 20 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon and is considered a low-sodium food. Including more low-sodium foods in your diet may help limit sodium intake to the recommended 2,400 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if you already have high blood pressure, are African American or are over the age of 50.
Good Choice for Calorie Counters With a Sweet Tooth
One tablespoon of pinole contains only 35 calories. If you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, one serving of pinole meets less than 2 percent of your daily calorie needs. While pinole is a source of added sugar, it is OK to eat these types of foods as long as it is part of an overall healthy diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests you limit your intake of foods with added sugar and fat to an average of 14 percent of total calories. Pinole can help satisfy your sweet tooth without overdoing it on calories.
- No Meat Athlete: Tarahumara Pinole and Chia
- Mexgrocer.com: Pinole de Maize
- Shopwell: Mojave Pinole
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- Colorado State University Extension: Nutrition for the Athlete
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010