4 Great Latin Foods

quinoaSalsa sales surpass ketchup sales. Tortillas are selling at a faster pace than potato chips. A growing U.S. Hispanic population and America’s appetite for new Hispanic flavors have boosted the availability and sales of Hispanic foods. The craving for Hispanic foods is not just limited to Mexican foods. There is an interest in the gastronomy of South America and the Caribbean.

Peruvian cuisine has emerged as a hot culinary trend. Quinoa, a high-protein grain of high nutritional value has grown in popularity. Most of the Quinoa consumed in the United States is imported from Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is not the only nutritional star, there are other foods hailing from Latin America that deserve attention. Here they are:

  1. Purple potatoes: Blue and purple potatoes originate from South America. Whether baked, boiled or cooked in the microwave, these potatoes have a nutty, yet subtle flavor. Purple potatoes contain about the same number of calories and fiber and 4 times as much antioxidants as other types of potatoes.
  2. Yacon: Yacon is a tuber grown in Peru. It is known for its health properties, especially to manage high blood glucose levels. Yacon is eaten raw and it is sweet and juicy. According to Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, and author of the book Peruvian Power Foods, yacon’s low glycemic index and soluble fiber content make it a “diabetes friendly food.”
  3. Black Beans: Brazil, along with India, is the major producer of black beans worldwide. Black beans are popular in Cuban and Brazil fares. At 15 grams per cup, black beans provide equal amounts of dietary fiber and protein. A low-glycemic index/load food, black beans are also “diabetes friendly.”
  4. Guava: At just 60 calories per serving with 5 grams of fiber, guava contains about 4 times the amount of vitamin C as a medium-sized orange. Guavas are also a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and folic acid. Buy guavas that are firm to the touch but yield to soft pressure. You can eat the skin and seeds.

Try this delicious Quinoa Bites recipe here.



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Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE is a registered dietitian, consultant and certified diabetes educator.


Lorena specializes in the multicultural aspects of diabetes self-management education and is an expert in developing culturally and ethnically-oriented nutrition and diabetes education materials. She founded Hispanic Foodways, which received the New York City Small Business Award in 2006. She developed the Nutriportion™ Measuring Cups that has the calorie and carbohydrate amounts of common foods embossed on each cup and the Nutriportion™ Hispanic Food Cards that have pictures and nutrition composition of common Hispanic foods.


Lorena served on the American Association of Diabetes Educators board of directors from 2006-2010, Chair for Latinos and Hispanics in Dietetics and Nutrition. She was Past President of the Metropolitan New York Association of Diabetes Educators in 2004. Lorena won the Diabetic Living People’s Choice Award in 2012.


She is the author of the book Beyond Rice and Beans: The Caribbean Guide to Eating Well with Diabetes published by the American Diabetes Association. She is a contributing author and co-editor of the book Cultural Food Practices and Diabetes, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and print communications chair for the Diabetes Care and Education Specialty Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena’s new publication, The 15-Minute Consultation: How to Enhance Learning and Get Your Message Across Every Time will be published in 2014 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena has appeared on several national TV shows speaking about diabetes management, including The Early Show and dLife TV.


Lorena graduated cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a Masters of Science degree in Food and Nutrition, and received her BA from Queens College.

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