Tortilla vs. Bread: Which is Healthier?

When comparing tortillas vs. bread, you might think there’s a simple answer to the healthier option.

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When comparing tortillas vs. bread, you might think there’s a simple answer to the healthier option. However, with so many different variations (not to mention portion sizes), the answer to a healthy handheld meal might not be as straightforward as you would think.

Types of bread

When comparing tortillas vs. bread, there are so many different types of bread to consider that it’s virtually impossible to make a flat comparison. There are almost unlimited variations to what constitutes a slice of bread, from banana bread to plain old white bread. 

In its most basic form, bread is usually made from a wheat flour dough, cultured with yeast, and allowed to rise before baking in an oven. The yeast and rising time are two of the key distinctions between bread and tortillas, as it makes the difference between the fluffy bread or flat tortilla.

Types of tortillas

Like bread, tortillas have a plethora of variations when you look closely. Most are made from flour or corn, but some can have extra ingredients like tomato or spinach baked into the wrap.

Flour tortillas are the most common variation in the USA, although corn tortillas are more traditional and considered to be a healthier option. Corn tortillas are considered healthier due to the type of grain and fiber content vs. flour tortillas.

Which is healthier? 

Picking the healthiest option between tortillas vs. bread is more complicated than you might think. They both offer pros and cons, and the type of bread or tortilla you go for (plus the size of the slice or wrap) will have a significant impact on the nutrition content of the food.

1. Calories

Calories certainly don’t show the whole picture when it comes to making healthy food choices. However, they are a valuable measure of whether something is suitable for a weight-loss diet. 

As a general rule, bread is significantly higher in calories than tortillas, with a 1oz slice of bread containing anywhere from 75 to 100 calories. In comparison, a corn tortilla will usually contain around 60-65 calories. Flour tortillas are higher in calories than corn options due to the addition of fat (this makes them softer and easier to roll than corn tortillas), meaning a flour tortilla will usually contain around 90 calories.

2. Fiber

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that’s been well established as an excellent weight loss aid. Not only does a high fiber content in food enables you to feel fuller for longer, but it’s also essential for regulating your digestive tract, making you healthier.

If you’re looking for a high-fiber addition to your lunch, corn tortillas or whole-wheat bread are your best bet. These contain over twice as much fiber as flour tortillas or white bread.

For example, a 6” corn tortilla usually contains around 2g of fiber, whereas a 6” flour tortilla or slice of white bread contains less than 1g.

3. Carbs

Although they’ve got a bad rep in recent years, carbs are the body’s primary fuel source, so it is essential to get sufficient carbohydrates in your diet. Tortillas and bread are both sources of carbohydrates, but the type of carb does matter.

In a 6” flour tortilla, you can expect to find approximately 15g of carbohydrates. A similar-sized corn tortilla will offer around 14g of carbs. A single slice of white bread will offer a similar amount of carbs as a 6” corn tortilla: around 14g. Whole-grain bread actually offers slightly fewer carbs, around 12g.

4. Fat

One of the biggest influencers of what makes tortillas vs. bread healthy is the fat content. Because flour tortillas have added fat to make them softer and easier to roll, they’re generally seen as less healthy than corn alternatives.

Fat is also a little misleading when it comes to bread types. Although whole-wheat bread is considered healthier, it actually contains more fat per slice than white bread: 1 thin slice of whole-wheat (33g) contains approximately 2g of fat, while 1 slice of white bread only contains around 1g of fat.

When shopping for healthy tortillas, you should look out for wraps made with vegetable oil instead of lard or other high-fat or trans-fat options. This goes for flour and corn tortillas alike. A good tip is to use a cast-iron tortilla press and make your own wraps at home: this way, you can control precisely how much and what type of fat is used.

Tortilla vs. Bread
Tortilla vs. Bread

Things to look for

Bread and tortillas are both made with grains, but it’s the different grains that distinguish the type of bread/tortilla you’ll get and makes a significant impact on the healthiness of the item.

Looking for whole-grain options is one of the most meaningful ways to improve your diet, whether you prefer tortillas or bread. You should also put thought into what’s going inside your sandwich or wrap, as this will influence whether your snack is healthy or not far more than the type of edible holder you’re using!

Always pack your bread/tortilla with plenty of real, fresh veggies, and aim for low-fat dressings where possible for a healthy and nutritious meal option.

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