Researchers have developed "environmentally friendly tortillas" that are more nutritious, help prevent osteoporosis, slow the aging process and help fight obesity, Mexico's Center for Advanced Research and Studies, or Cinvestav, said.

A team led by Juan de Dios Figueroa Cardenas, of Cinvestav's unit in Queretaro, developed an environmentally friendly method for producing tortillas from gourmet corn that have a high nutritional content and double the shelf life without increasing the price of the final product, the center said.

The current process used to make tortillas is "highly polluting" and "not very efficient," resulting in tortillas that "in many cases do not contain the fiber or calcium" people need, Cinvestav said in a statement.

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Given the importance of tortillas in the Mexican diet since pre-Columbian times, researchers worked on developing a process that "does not produce pollutants" and replaces lime, a corrosive substance, with salts and other ingredients in the cooking process, the research center said.

The use of other salts retains the outer layers of corn kernels during cooking and preserves a large amount of nutrients that end up being lost in the existing process and generating an enormous amount of pollution and wasted water.

"By eating environmentally friendly tortillas, we stay young longer," Figueroa Cardenas said.

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The tortillas are also useful in fighting obesity, which is a huge problem in Mexico, because they contain double the fiber of a traditional tortilla, the biotechnology researcher said, adding that the tortillas' high calcium content helps prevent osteoporosis.

Mexicans eat about 14 million tons annually of tortillas, which are one of the main sources of calcium for the population.

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