If you’re planning on celebrating National Taco Day (October 4), partaking in Taco Tuesday on a weekly basis or planning ahead for Cinco de Mayo, you’re likely going to enjoy a meal flavor-packed with Mexican ingredients. But this authentic deliciousness doesn’t necessarily have to be an unhealthy diet disaster! Just a few mindful ingredient swaps can ensure that your Mexican fare is totally fair game when it comes to nutritious, guilt-free indulgence.
A Nutty Swap for Tacos
Spice up your favorite taco dishes by making walnuts the star ingredient. Yes, walnuts! Nutty and full of flavor, “walnut meat” turns taco recipes into high-nutrient, plant-forward options.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends shifting food choices from those high in saturated fats to those high in good unsaturated fats, like those found in walnuts. This may be especially important for members of the disability community to note because statistics show that people with disabilities are less likely to be of healthy weight and more likely to be obese than people without disabilities.
- A healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of plant-forward foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, oils, nuts and seeds, as well as protein and low-fat dairy, is associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancers.
- More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes and about 23 percent of adults are affected by metabolic syndrome. Individuals with diabetes or metabolic syndrome often have conditions such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, high triglycerides and obesity, which increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. But a one-ounce serving of walnuts has only four grams of carbohydrates, so walnuts can easily fit into a low-carbohydrate diet.
- Some evidence suggests that incorporating nuts into a diet during adulthood may lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Walnuts help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, two of the major risk factors for heart disease. They are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.
- And studies suggest that walnuts may increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
RECIPE: Walnut “Chorizo” Tacos
Total time: 40 minutes | Servings: 2 | Recipes courtesy of California Walnuts
Pickled Vegetable Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 medium jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Walnut Chorizo Crumble Ingredient:
- 1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups California walnuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 16 whole-wheat tortillas (aka taco shells)
- olive oil
- thinly sliced romaine lettuce
- fresh cilantro leaves
- lime wedges
- To make pickled vegetables: In a small bowl, stir together lime juice, sugar and sea salt. Then stir in radishes, jalapenos and garlic slices; let stand 30 minutes to pickle.
- To make walnut “chorizo” crumble: In a food processor, pulse beans and walnuts until coarsely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons oil, white vinegar, paprika, chili powder, oregano, salt, chipotle, cumin and coriander; pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and resembles ground meat, stirring several times and moving the mixture from the bottom of food processor bowl to the top to evenly mix.
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining oil. Add “chorizo” mixture and cook 10 minutes, or until mixture is browned and resembles ground meat, stirring frequently.
- To prepare tacos: Brush each tortilla lightly with oil. On a skillet over medium-high heat, cook briefly to brown on both sides, keeping warm in foil until all tortillas are cooked.
- Remove pickled vegetables from the liquid and discard garlic slices. Fill each tortilla with equal amounts of “chorizo” and pickled vegetables. Garnish with lettuce and cilantro; serve with lime wedges.