Hispanics are the most rapidly growing ethnic group in the United states, and Mexican-Americans are the largest subgroup of Hispanics. Hispanic cuisine is based on the concept of foods having ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ properties and on beliefs about the contribution of food to health and wellbeing.
‘Cold’ foods include most vegetables, tropical fruits, dairy products, and inexpensive cuts of meat. ‘Hot’ foods include chili peppers, garlic, onions, most grains, expensive cuts of meat, oils and alcohol. Pregnancy is considered a ‘hot’ condition. Thus ‘hot’ foods upset the stomach. Therefore some Hispanics may not eat chili peppers while pregnant for cultural reasons rather than because of safety issues for the mother or developing fetus.
Depending on the part of the world, the main dishes of Hispanic Diets may include meat (pork, veal, sausage), poultry or fish. Rice and tortillas are mainstays of the diet, as are fruits and vegetables. Milk and cheese are consumed when available. Fried foods are often eaten and may need to be limited for medical reasons. Chili peppers are commonly used and are a rich source of vitamin C. Chili peppers can range from mild to very hot and from small to very large.
Common food choices associated within cultural group.
Grain group: corn (tortillas, masa harina), wheat, rice products, sweet bread.
Vegetable group: cactus (nopales), calabaza criolla, chili peppers, corn, jicama, onions, peas, plantains, squashes, tomatillos, tomatoes, yams, yucca root (cassava or manioc).
Fruit group: avocados, bananas, cactus fruit, carambola, casimiroa, cherimoya, coconut, granadilla, guanabana, guava, lemons, limes, mamey, mangoes, melon, oranges, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, sugar cane, and zapote.
Milk, yogurt and cheese group: cheese, flan, sour cream, milk.
Meat, fish, eggs and nuts group: beef, goat, pork, chicken, turkey, firm-fleshed fish, shrimp, a variety of legumes.
Fats and sweets group: bacon fat, lard (Manteca), salt port, dairy cream, sugar, panocha (raw brown cane sugar).