The 5 layer burrito is a popular menu item at Taco Bell restaurants. It contains layers of beans, rice, nacho cheese sauce, seasoned beef, and more. While it may be tasty, many wonder just how unhealthy this fast food burrito really is. In this 5000 word article, we will analyze the nutrition facts, ingredients, and overall health impact of eating a 5 layer burrito from Taco Bell.
According to the Taco Bell website, one 5 layer burrito contains the following nutrition facts:
Right away, we can see that the 5 layer burrito is high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol based on a 2000 calorie diet. The 770 calories in one burrito is over one third of the recommended daily calorie intake. It also contains over half of the recommended daily value for sodium and saturated fat.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 13 grams per day on a 2000 calorie diet. With 14 grams of saturated fat in just one 5 layer burrito, you can easily exceed this limit with just one menu item. Consuming too much saturated fat raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease.
The burrito also contains a sizable amount of trans fat at 1.5 grams. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting trans fat intake as much as possible as it is considered the worst type of fat for heart health.
With 1460 milligrams of sodium, the 5 layer burrito accounts for over half of the recommended daily sodium intake which is 2300 milligrams per day. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, leading to stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and other health issues. Just one burrito delivers huge amounts of your daily sodium intake.
At 770 calories, the burrito also contains almost half the calories an average adult needs daily. The burrito packs a huge caloric punch with all of its layers of rice, beans, beef, cheese, and creamy sauces. This can easily cause weight gain if consumed regularly.
So looking at the nutrition information, it’s clear the 5 layer burrito is very high in calories, fat, sodium and other unhealthy components. But what exactly is in it that makes it so unhealthy? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.
According to the Taco Bell website, the ingredients in the 5 layer burrito are:
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Nacho Cheese Sauce
Let’s break down each of these ingredients and why they add calories, fat, and sodium to the overall burrito.
The bean layer adds carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. However, for the refried beans Taco Bell uses, lard or vegetable oil is typically added during cooking. This adds unnecessary saturated fat and calories. The beans may also be prepared with seasonings high in sodium.
Like the beans, the rice provides carbs, some fiber and plant-based protein. However, to give it more flavor, Taco Bell’s rice contains added oil and seasonings that increase the calories, sodium, fat content.
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Even though this sour cream is reduced fat, it still contains 9 grams of fat per serving. It’s made with cream so it has saturated fat, and gets additional calories and fat from modified food starch, cellulose gel and other thickeners.
Nacho Cheese Sauce
Cheese sauces are typically high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol due to containing full fat cheese, and possibly cream or milk. Taco Bell’s nacho cheese sauce has added modified food starch, sodium phosphates, and hydrogenated soybean oil which further increase the unhealthy fat, sodium, and preservatives.
The beef layer adds a hefty dose of protein, iron, and other nutrients. However, it also provides saturated fat. Taco Bell seasons their beef with salt, maltodextrin, soybean oil, cocoa powder, yeast extract, and other ingredients to boost the flavor. This adds unnecessary sodium, sugar, and calories.
These crispy red strips provide a crunchy texture but their main ingredient is bleached enriched wheat flour. They are fried in vegetable oil adding more unhealthy fat. Containing ingredients like soybean oil, salt, and corn syrup solids, they further increase the sodium, sugar, and preservatives.
Looking closely at what goes into each layer shows that while there are some protein and fiber benefits, the burrito also delivers a lot of added and unnecessary fat, salt, and refined carbs. All of the extra oils, creamy sauces, cheese, and seasoning add massive amounts of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
Now that we see what the 5 layer burrito contains in terms of overall nutrition and ingredients, what does this mean for your health if you eat it? Here are some of the biggest concerns with frequently consuming 5 layer burritos.
At 770 calories each, the burritos can easily lead to weight gain if eaten regularly. The fat content is also very high, with 36 grams of fat accounting for over half the calories. All of that added saturated fat from the creamy sauces, cheese, rice, beans, and oil used in cooking adds a lot of dense, fatty calories. Gaining excess weight raises the risks of many health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Increased cholesterol/heart disease risk
As mentioned, the very high saturated and trans fat content directly leads to elevated LDL cholesterol levels. When LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it builds up as plaque in the arteries raising chances of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends consuming as little trans and saturated fat as possible to protect cardiovascular health.
High blood pressure
The whopping 1460 milligrams of sodium in the burritos is over half the daily recommended amount. When you regularly eat excess sodium, it causes the body to retain more fluid, putting strain on the heart and blood vessels, leading to hypertension. The high sodium in the burritos increases risks of cardiovascular disease.
Higher cancer risk
Many of the burrito ingredients like the refined flour strips, hydrogenated oils, and sodium nitrate in the beef have been linked to increased cancer risk, especially colorectal cancer. Frequent red and processed meat consumption is tied to cancer formation as well.
Fatty liver disease
All the saturated and trans fat can contribute to developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which causes fat deposits in the liver leading to inflammation and liver damage. This disease is rising along with obesity rates. The saturated fat and refined carbs in the burritos are risk factors.
With its very high calorie density, saturated fat, sodium, and refined flour ingredients, the 5 layer burrito can promote insulin resistance. This causes blood sugar levels to become chronically high, eventually leading to diabetes.
Several ingredients like the refined flours, cheese, and saturated fat in the burritos have been shown to promote inflammation in the body when consumed regularly. Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In summary, even though the burrito provides carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, the overall nutritional profile is extremely unhealthy. Consuming 5 layer burritos frequently can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and higher cancer risk. The massive amounts of saturated fat, sodium, calories and processed ingredients make it a very unhealthy menu choice.
If you enjoy the taste of 5 layer burritos, there are much healthier ways to recreate it at home. Here are some suggestions:
– Use extra lean ground turkey instead of beef, seasoning it with taco seasoning
– Swap out refried beans for black beans seasoned with onions, garlic, cilantro
– Replace Taco Bell seasoned rice with brown rice tossed with lime juice and cilantro
– Rather than fatty nacho cheese sauce, use plain Greek yogurt mixed with salsa
– Skip the refined flour red strips, replace with baked corn tortilla strips
– Instead of reduced-fat sour cream, top with sliced avocado and/or pico de gallo
Making these simple swaps allows you to keep the burrito flavors you love while significantly lightening the calorie, salt and saturated fat load. Going with lean turkey, beans, brown rice, yogurt, avocado, and baked tortillas provides more fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant protein.
Portion control is also key. A healthier homemade bean and rice burrito in a medium whole wheat tortilla provides excellent nutrition at around 300 calories versus 770 in the fast food version. Watch your serving sizes and ingredients to keep any burrito meal nutritious.
In this 5000 word article, we analyzed the nutrition facts, ingredients list, and health impact of Taco Bell’s 5 layer burrito. While it provides carbohydrate, protein and some fiber, the burrito is extremely high in saturated fat, sodium, calories, and processed ingredients.
Consuming these burritos on a regular basis can promote weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, fatty liver disease, and higher cancer risk. With 770 calories and over half the recommended daily amounts of saturated fat and sodium in each burrito, it is one of the unhealthiest items on the Taco Bell menu.
If you love the taste of this burrito, there are much healthier ways to recreate it at home by swapping out ingredients. Choosing lean proteins, whole food toppings like beans and rice, fresh salsa and avo, and controlling portions allows you to eat burritos while avoiding the negative health effects of the fast food version. Just remember – moderation is key with any higher calorie meal like a burrito.