AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Which is healthier, a tortilla or a slice of bread?
A: They are somewhat similar, but how much depends upon the tortilla - and the bread. Like bread, tortillas are made from a grain - either wheat or corn, so some nutrients are similar. But calories differ depending on the tortilla's size, thickness and fat content.
A one-ounce slice of bread typically contains 75 to 100 calories. Corn tortillas, the traditional choice for tacos and enchiladas, generally have 60 to 65 calories in each small six-inch piece. Flour tortillas are slightly higher in calories because they contain added fat to make them softer and easier to roll. Small six-inch flour tortillas usually aren’t much more than 90 calories. However, many flour tortillas used for dishes like fajitas, large burritos and chimichangas are quite a bit larger and may be thicker, too. A 12-inch flour tortilla may contain nearly 300 calories with more carbohydrates than three slices of bread.
Beyond calories, nutritional value depends on whether the tortillas are made with whole grains and healthy fats. Instead of flour tortillas made from enriched flour (a refined grain), look for whole grain options (corn or whole wheat). Just as with bread, whole-grain tortillas provide more fiber and a more complete package of nutrients and health-protecting plant compounds. When buying flour tortillas, look for those made with vegetable oils.
Learn more about whole grains in AICR's Foods that Fight Cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).