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Corn Tortillas on a Diabetes Diet

author image Michelle Kerns
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.
Corn Tortillas on a Diabetes Diet
Eat corn tortillas in moderation if you have diabetes. Photo Credit: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

A healthy, balanced diabetes diet should include plenty of nonstarchy vegetables and moderate amounts of whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, lean protein and low- or nonfat dairy, says the American Diabetes Association. Corn tortillas, which are prepared from masa, or ground corn flour, are considered a whole-grain food and can be included in a diabetic's diet in moderation. Ask your doctor or a dietitian if you need help developing a diet that can help you manage diabetes.

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Glycemic Index

Diabetics should focus their diet on foods with a low glycemic index. These are carbohydrate-rich foods that do not cause sharp fluctuations in your blood glucose level. Items with a score of 55 or less are considered low on the glycemic index scale. According to Harvard Health Publications, one corn tortilla has a glycemic index of 52, making it a preferred carbohydrate choice for diabetics. Whole-wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than corn tortillas, as do white rice and regular pasta.

Recommended Intake

The ADA recommends that a diabetic should plan meals to consist of half nonstarchy vegetables, one-quarter lean protein and one-quarter whole grains or starchy vegetables. A single white or yellow corn tortilla -- the two are nutritionally identical -- would count as the entire whole-grain portion of your meal in this method. Throughout the course of the day, a diabetes diet should include six to 11 total servings of whole grains or starches.

Preparation Tips

Diabetics need to control their weight and sodium intake to help lower their risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Instead of frying corn tortillas in butter, lard or oil, heat them in the microwave, the oven, on the grill or in a nonstick skillet lightly coated with cooking spray. Fill the tortillas with grilled vegetables, poultry, fish, shellfish like shrimp or lean cuts of beef or pork. Try adding flavor with fresh salsa, guacamole or a squeeze of lime juice instead of salt. If you choose to add cheese or sour cream, pick a reduced-fat brand and use only a small amount.

Healthy Alternatives

For a tortilla that will affect your blood glucose level even less than corn versions, try whole-wheat tortillas. One whole-wheat tortilla has a glycemic index of 30. Each tortilla counts as a single whole-grain serving and can be used in many recipes calling for corn tortillas, including tacos, fajitas, tostadas and enchiladas. Check the label to be certain that the tortilla is prepared from 100 percent whole-wheat flour. Steer clear of regular flour tortillas, which are made from refined white flour and have a high glycemic index.

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