Is the beefy 5 layer burrito healthy?

The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is a popular menu item from Taco Bell that contains seasoned beef, refried beans, nacho cheese sauce, red tortilla strips, sour cream, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. With its combination of protein, carbohydrates, cheese, and creamy sauces, it delivers on satisfying Tex-Mex flavors. However, with society’s increasing focus on healthy eating, one has to wonder – is the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito actually good for you?

Nutrition Facts

To determine how healthy the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is, let’s start by looking at its nutrition facts:

Nutrition Facts Amount per Burrito
Calories 790
Total Fat 37 g
Saturated Fat 14 g
Trans Fat 1.5 g
Cholesterol 95 mg
Sodium 1830 mg
Total Carbohydrates 71 g
Dietary Fiber 8 g
Sugars 3 g
Protein 32 g

With 790 calories and high amounts of fat, sodium and cholesterol per burrito, the Beefy 5 Layer does not score very well from a pure nutritional standpoint. Let’s break down each ingredient and see how it impacts the overall health profile.

Ingredients Analysis

Seasoned Beef

The seasoned beef provides protein, which is important for building muscle mass. However, beef often contains high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, which should be limited in a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 13 grams per day. With 14 grams of saturated fat in just one Beefy 5 Layer Burrito, it’s easy to go over this limit.

Refried Beans

Beans provide a good source of plant-based protein and fiber. The fiber in the refried beans may help slow digestion and promote feelings of fullness. However, refried beans can be high in sodium. With an already high sodium count, the beans likely add to the overage.

Nacho Cheese Sauce

Cheese is often high in saturated fat and sodium. The nacho cheese sauce, while providing creaminess and flavor, significantly increases the amount of saturated fat. It also contains chemical preservatives and emulsifying agents.

Red Tortilla Strips

The red strips provide a crunchy texture contrast. However, fried tortilla chips are high in calories and fat and lack nutrients.

Sour Cream

Sour cream contains fat and some protein. The fat content increases calories without providing much nutritional benefit.

Flour Tortilla

The flour tortilla acts as the carb base of the burrito. Flour tortillas are typically made from refined grains rather than whole grains, meaning the fiber content is lower.

Macronutrient Balance

In terms of macronutrients, the burrito is high in carbohydrates with 71 grams. It provides 32 grams of protein, which is decent. However, the fat content tips more towards unhealthy saturated and trans fats rather than heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

According to dietary guidelines, balance is key. The high amount of saturated fat outweighs the benefits of the protein and carbohydrates in this case.

Micronutrient Profile

Looking beyond macronutrients, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito lacks significant micronutrients that are found in more natural, whole foods. There are no meaningful amounts of vitamins, minerals or antioxidants – components that help boost immunity and prevent disease.

The fiber content is also lower than recommended daily values. The 8 grams provide 3% of the recommended daily fiber intake. More fiber would be beneficial for digestive and heart health.

High Sodium Content

One of the biggest concerns with the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is the high sodium content. The 1,830 milligrams of sodium is over 75% of the recommended daily limit. High sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

The combination of processed beef, cheese sauce, refried beans and tortilla likely all contribute to the hefty sodium amount. This makes the burrito hard to fit into a healthy eating pattern.

Low in Fruit, Vegetables and Whole Grains

Like many fast food menu items, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito does not contain any fruit, vegetables or whole grains – all components of a balanced diet. Without these additions, it lacks nutrients like potassium, magnesium, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Substituting in fresh veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, onions and avocado could help increase fiber and nutrient content. Adding brown rice or whole grain tortillas could also improve the nutritional profile. But in its current form, produce and whole grains are notably absent.

Highly Processed Food Product

Heavily processed foods tend to be less healthy than whole, minimally processed alternatives. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito contains highly processed tortillas, seasoned beef and cheese sauce. These types of processed ingredients are linked to higher risks of chronic diseases.

Compared to a burrito bowl with grass-fed beef, beans, brown rice, veggies, guacamole, and fresh salsa, the Beefy 5 Layer is far more processed. The less processed option provides more nutrients and health benefits.

Large Portion Size

At over 790 calories, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito’s portion size is excessive for a single serving. This can make it easy to overeat without realizing it. The overabundance of calories, fat, and sodium all stem from the large size. A smaller 4-inch burrito may provide more reasonable amounts.

When eaten in combination with other menu items like chips and soda, the portion size issue is further compounded. Getting full nutritional value from fewer calories is ideal. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito’s nutrition stats may look OK if the portion was halved. But as a single serving, the impact is nutrition-poor.

Highly Palatable Ingredients

Taco Bell has mastered the art of layering fat, salt, and simple carbs to create hyper-palatable fast food. The combination stimulates the pleasure and reward centers in the brain, creating a commonly addictive effect. While delicious, these flavors promote overconsumption and food addiction tendencies.

For those trying to eat less processed food and control cravings, menu items layered with fat and sodium can trigger the urge to overeat. The palatability provides instant gratification that health-conscious eaters try to avoid.

Frequent Consumption

Taco Bell is the type of food that consumers tend to eat often when they choose to eat it at all. The convenience, affordability, and strategic drive-thru locations make it an easy meal solution multiple days per week. Even without supersizing options, frequent consumption of any fast food is associated with obesity and other health risks.

Regularly eating calorie-dense Beefy 5 Layer Burritos leads to excessive calorie intake. Repeated exposure to high sodium levels also poses problems. Experts recommend fast food no more than once per week, if at all. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito does not align with this guideline.

Nutrient-Poor Ingredients

As touched upon, the individual ingredients in the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito lack beneficial nutrients. Here is a recap:

Seasoned Beef

High in saturated fat, lacking nutrients

Refried Beans

Provide fiber and plant-based protein but high in sodium

Nacho Cheese Sauce

High in saturated fat, sodium, and chemical additives

Red Tortilla Strips

Fried tortilla chips add calories, fat but lack nutrients

Sour Cream

Contains fat without much nutritional value

Flour Tortilla

Made from refined grains rather than whole grains

When reviewing the ingredients, it becomes clear the burrito derives its calories from nutrient-poor sources. There are better choices to get calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates from.

Minimally Nutritious Calories

The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito provides nearly 800 calories. But the quality of those calories is poor. With so few vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber per calorie, most of the calories qualify as “empty.”

Higher quality calories that nourish the body are ideal. Things like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and seeds provide calories wrapped in beneficial nutrients. The Beefy 5 Layer emphasizes taste over nutrition.

Lack of Nutrient Density

Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients a food contains compared to the number of calories. A nutrient-dense food provides high amounts of micronutrients relative to its calorie content. The more nutrients per calorie, the better.

By this measure, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is the opposite of nutrient-dense. With almost no micronutrients to speak of, its calories lack positive impact. The burrito qualifies as an energy-dense, nutrient-poor food. Prioritizing these foods leads to a malnourished state of overfed yet undernourished.

Does Not Promote Satiety

Ideally, foods promote satiety – meaning they provide lasting fullness and satisfaction. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito does not score well in satiety value. Refined carbs and fried foods digest quickly, soon leading to hunger again. High fat also does not increase satiety like protein and fiber.

With its heavy refined carb load, low fiber content, and minimal protein, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito provides only a brief satiating effect. This leads to cravings for more food sooner after eating it. More satiating options exist.

Contains Artificial Ingredients

Taco Bell uses artificial flavors, colors and preservatives in some of their beef and cheese products. While FDA-approved, artificial additives are associated with potential health risks like allergies, asthma and headaches in sensitive individuals.

Artificial ingredients are also nutritionally inferior to natural, whole food options. Though convenient and cost-effective for processed food manufacturers, artificial additives do not benefit human health. All the artificial additives in the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito detract from its nutritional profile.

High Amounts of Inflammatory Fats

The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito provides 37 grams of total fat, including 14 grams of saturated fat and 1.5 grams of trans fat per burrito. Saturated and trans fats are considered pro-inflammatory due to their effects on cardiovascular health.

Inflammation is linked obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. The inflammatory fatty acid profile of the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is therefore concerning. The meat, cheese, sour cream and fried tortilla strips all contribute inflammatory fats.

Effect on Energy Levels

Despite being high in calories, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is unlikely to provide sustained energy. Processed, fried, high-fat foods often lead to an energy crash soon after eating. Blood sugar and insulin spike then rapidly fall.

The refined carbs, sodium, and unhealthy fats promote fatigue and brain fog rather than clean-burning energy. The ample protein provides some advantage, but not enough to negate the inflammatory effects for sustained energy. Better options exist for long-lasting meals that fuel the body and mind.

Lack of Disease-Fighting Compounds

Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs, spices, teas and plant extracts are abundant in phytochemicals – compounds that fight disease. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito contains minimal phytochemicals or other compounds to combat inflammation, oxidative stress or cellular damage.

Without these protective compounds, the burrito provides no assistance in cellular health, detoxification, immune function, or prevention of chronic diseases. A healthy diet focuses on antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to maintain wellbeing. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito lacks these.

High Amounts of Advanced Glycation End Products

When protein foods are exposed to high heat, compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form. These AGEs trigger inflammatory pathways and oxidative stress in the body, contributing to aging, diabetes, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease.

With its heavily processed beef and reliance on high-heat cooking methods, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito likely contains significant amounts of pro-inflammatory AGEs. The abundance of these compounds provides another reason to limit intake of this convenience food.

Effect on Gut Health

A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for overall wellbeing. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito is unlikely to benefit digestive health, however. The refined grains, processed meat, sodium, and lack of fiber create poor conditions for healthy gut bacteria to thrive.

A fiber-rich burrito with probiotic ingredients like yogurt, kimchi or kombucha could better promote a healthy microbiome. The Beefy 5 Layer’s impact on gut health is likely negative, contributing to inflammation and discomfort.

Effect on Metabolic Health

Metabolic health refers to how well the body processes and utilizes food for energy. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito provides an influx of saturated fat, refined carbs and sodium – all things that impair metabolic function.

After eating processed, fried, high-fat foods, the body struggles to maintain healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. These foods dysregulate appetite hormones like leptin and ghrelin as well. Over time, frequent consumption leads to increased diabetes and heart disease risk.

For optimal metabolic health, whole plant foods are recommended. The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito works against this goal.

Nutritional Needs Met

The Beefy 5 Layer Burrito does provide a substantial dose of calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. In the sense of macronutrient needs, it meets standards for a complete meal. However, based on all the nutritional factors evaluated above, it falls devastatingly short in terms of micronutrients and diet quality.

As they say, one cannot live on macronutrients alone! The burrito provides energy to fuel the body but without the ample vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber needed for optimal function. It fails to meet true nutritional needs for whole body health.


In summary, while the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito satisfies cravings for savory Tex-Mex flavors, it lacks attributes of a healthy, balanced meal. With high amounts of sodium, saturated fat, refined carbs, and artificial ingredients coupled with minimal beneficial nutrients, the burrito scores poorly from a nutrition standpoint.

Occasional consumption as part of an otherwise whole food diet is unlikely to cause big problems. But regular reliance on the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito and similar fast food items promotes increased risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

For those focused on healthy eating, the Beefy 5 Layer won’t provide the lasting energy, satiation, and wholesome nutrition needed. Homemade burritos loaded with veggies, beans, brown rice, lean protein and fresh salsa make for far better nutrition. Or if fast food is the only option, a basic bean burrito is a somewhat better choice.

In general, products from chains like Taco Bell should be limited in a health-supporting diet. While crave-worthy at times, the Beefy 5 Layer Burrito lacks too many merits to recommend for regular consumption. Nutrient-dense whole foods combined with thoughtful indulgences remain the healthiest approach.

Leave a Comment