Tortilla wraps often get marketed as a lower-calorie, low-carb, or generally healthier choice than sandwiches built on bakery rolls or thick slices of bread. But here’s the thing: many of those supposedly healthy wraps can impact your blood sugar every bit as much as other styles of bread.
What does “impact your blood sugar” mean? After any meal, the amount of circulating glucose in your bloodstream can rise. A sharper spike indicates that there’s a lot more glucose in your blood, probably because you consumed a high volume of carbohydrates. Spikes can lead to crashes, as your body releases insulin to aid the use or storage of glucose. The spike-crash cycle can leave you feeling tired, foggy-headed, or even anxious. Over time, these crashes can potentially lead to insulin resistance and metabolic diseases.
Which brings us back to the problem with tortilla wraps. Despite their perceived health halo, many wraps are often either refined white flour in disguise or other flours that are still high in carbohydrates—either is likely to produce a significant glucose spike.
How to Spot the Problem with Common Tortilla Wraps
Whenever you shop for any packaged food, it’s a good idea to check out the nutrition label. But this is especially true for wraps because the claims on the front of the package can be misleading. Brands advertised as “reduced carb” may still have high carbohydrates, and other healthy-sounding terms are no guarantee the item is metabolically friendly.
Even a popular brand of “100% whole wheat” tortillas contains 34 grams of carbs per tortilla—with an ingredients list that starts with flour and includes two kinds of gums, indicating the food is more highly processed and may be less healthful. A “reduced-carb” brand contains 16 grams of carbs per wrap.
Similarly, a tortilla that advertises itself as a “spinach wrap” might be primarily refined white flour with a dusting of a spinach derivative. Refined white flour is made with processed wheat that has been stripped of a large part of its fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Any tortilla listing grain flour among its first ingredients will probably spike your blood sugar no matter what “superfood” ingredient it might also contain.
Tortilla Alternatives: 5 Better Ways to Wrap Your Food
The general rule of thumb for a metabolic approach to eating is to choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. When you do eat processed foods, favor ones with fewer ingredients that are natural and nutrient-rich. There are plenty of healthier tortilla alternatives that fit this description. This is not a comprehensive list of every good option but should give you a starting point for finding wraps that support your metabolic fitness, plus some ideas for how to use them.
The best sandwich wraps aren’t found in packaged food aisles. Head to the produce section instead. There, you’ll find ideal wraps in the big, broad, pliable leaves of collard greens, Swiss chard, kale, and cabbage. Just be sure to trim away the toughest part of the stem before wrapping and rolling. Bonus: Research indicates kale can help suppress blood sugar increases after meals.
Fill it with: Wrap meat and cheese in greens for added crunch.
These sheets of dried sea vegetables are the unsung heroes of the wrap world. Typically used for sushi, you can use these to wrap almost anything you like. Not only do they contain nutrients including iodine, magnesium, and zinc, they also have negligible carbs. Sprinkle a bit of water on the edges of the nori sheet before rolling it up to make the ends self-adhesive and help keep the wrap together.
Fill it with: Thinly sliced cabbage, miso, tofu, and herbs are at home rolled in these savory seaweed sheets.
Homemade Flax Wraps
It’s hard to do better than a single-ingredient wrap you can make yourself. (Here’s a recipe to try.) Plus, research shows that flaxseed is beneficial for blood glucose control. Flaxseeds contain plenty of carbs, but most are due to their high fiber content. Flax is low in net carbs (the carbohydrates in food that your body digests) and, therefore, generally tends not to spike your blood sugar. You can store homemade flax wraps in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to a month.
Fill it with: Make a breakfast wrap with eggs, avocado, and tender greens.
Cassava & Almond Flour Wraps
Flours made from almonds or cassava (a root vegetable with a nutty flavor) are among the most common grain-free base ingredients for wraps. The brand Siete makes both cassava and almond wraps (although the almond is more of a taco-size tortilla than a full-size sandwich wrap). Note: grain-free doesn’t mean carb-free. Siete wraps contain 20 to 34 grams of carbs per serving (from starches used along with the main ingredient) and can spike blood glucose in some people.
Fill it with: When you want a hearty chicken or beef burrito, these wraps hold up.
Wraps made from coconut are another excellent option for keeping your blood sugar in check. As always, read the label. While some brands are made from coconut and little else, others contain starches that drive up the carb count. Also, keep an eye on the saturated fat content. Some brands contain up to one-quarter of the daily recommended value for saturated fat per serving. Nuco Organic Coconut Wraps Original is a good option with just three ingredients.
Fill it with: Spicy tuna or salmon salad are good choices for a coconut wrap.