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Tamales and Health: Good Food, Nutrients and Balanced Choices

September 14 is National “Food Is Medicine” Day. It’s a great day to empower yourself by knowing the "health value' of the food you love to eat, as well as practicing balanced choices. Tamales are the delicious age-old traditional icon of Mexican cuisine which can fit right into your good choices.

Nutritional value of tamales
Tamales are made from good ingredients. Masa, which is made from corn flour, is a good source of calcium and carbohydrates for energy and fiber. These help your digestive system  prevent constipation. A minimal source of proteins and fats are also found in masa, which your body uses for energy.
Tucked inside the masa is a wide variety of fillings for delicious tamales, a good source of benefits for the body. Meat  is rich in protein and other nutrients and vegetables are a source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium and more. Together they contribute to maintaining a healthy body.

Rest assured that authentic tamales contain good wholesome ingredients to be enjoyed in moderation, not to mention the immeasurable cultural wealth that tamales bring to the table. Mexican tradition is rich with family and friendship benefits which of course support good mental and emotional health. When we gather at the table for a delicious tamale dinner, we take in the aroma and taste of Mexican tradition and connect between bites.

Traditional value of Tamales:  
The tradition of tamales began centuries ago in Mesoamerica. Tamales served a practical need as they were light and easy to carry during hunting and migration. A tradition birthed out of necessity for survival evolved into a national religious ritual and eventually into a beautiful family tradition. Savory and sweet tamales have been a part of Mexican culture and families for hundreds of years. Sitting together at the dinner table is also a comfortable and cozy tradition.  In our family, eating together was about a need to connect. There at the table we shared our lives and our emotions. In true Mexican tradition, conversations were animated, sometimes hot. There is something special about “big traditional meals” during the holidays. Appreciation and respect goes out to mama and the extra hands that helped in the kitchen and a solemn gratefulness to the God who gives all bounty. Sitting down together and absorbing the wonderful scents of Mexican spices and flavors makes room for thankfulness. Gratefulness for delicious food, family, friends and for traditions passed down through the centuries this way.

Today the tradition of tamales has evolved and expanded  past the holidays into everyday meals. A midweek tamale dinner, made possible by the incredible advancements of technology,  is definitely a good time to stop and appreciate good food, great family and friends. If you do not have the benefit of family close by, then the cozy meal of tamales can be a bridge for new friendship. Be intentional as you send out an invite for a traditional Mexican meal.

Tamales on the holidays and tamales any day are great, but like everything in life watchfulness and moderation are always good practices. 

Balanced Choices
Practicing good choices is a personal decision. Knowing what you can and cannot eat is important, and asking the proper questions regarding ingredients is a wise precaution, especially if you have certain intolerances or diseases. Another good practice is simply exercising self control. Authentic delicious tamales will be a temptation, but the bottom line is that a person can restrain their desire and consume the appropriate amount and absolutely enjoy it, although it does take practice to establish satisfaction. Depending on your restrictions, one suggestion is to balance your plate with a delicious Texas style tamale, an appropriate portion size of Mexican rice, refried beans and a fresh green salad. Balanced choices make for a balanced life.

The ancients used the humble meal of tamales to survive and it persevered throughout the centuries. Tamales remain a strong pillar in Mexican tradition and by using the power of choice you can have the best of both worlds in your meals: delicious traditional tamales infused with good nutrients, consumed in moderation.

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