The reasons we gravitate towards fast food are simple: it’s quick, cheap, and easy. Plus, fast-food spots have been a go-to for reliable drive-thru service and other forms of contactless transactions during the pandemic. So it was easy to forget that making a habit of frequenting fast-food chains could be extremely detrimental to your health.
Taco Bell, specifically, is one of those chains that may seem less unhealthy than many burger-and-fry joints, since some of its menu items do appear to be on the healthier side. However, it’s important to remember that there are serious negative side effects of regularly eating Taco Bell—and one that could even shave years off your lifespan. (RELATED: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.)
Unfortunately, eating too much Taco Bell could lead to an increased chance of heart disease, thanks to hidden saturated fats in many of the chain’s items that otherwise seem pretty harmless. We spoke to nutrition expert Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, to determine which specific items from the beloved Tex-Mex chain are the culprits.
“When it comes to Taco Bell, menu options that are fried, contain refried beans, and/or have creamy toppings and sauces are more likely to have higher amounts of saturated fat,” Goodson warned. Sure, you could have probably guessed that fried foods are less than ideal for your heart. But even beans which may seem like a healthy option can become your worst enemy when refried. That’s where you run into trouble with the fat content. When it comes to toppings and sauces, keep in mind it’s easy to ruin even the healthiest order—no menu item is truly safe since Taco Bell lets you add Creamy Jalapeño Sauce or Avocado Ranch to pretty much anything.
Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, pointed out some other things to be aware of when it comes to hidden saturated fat. “Take rice and beans, for example. This is a very common meal worldwide among some of the world’s healthiest populations. However, the variety the consumer is receiving at Taco Bell has been loaded with oil by the cupful to improve taste, texture, and stability,” she noted.
There is truly nothing worse than having something seemingly healthy turn out to be a hidden source of artery-clogging saturated fat instead. Though there are quite a few saturated fat–filled menu items at Taco Bell, Goodson reminds us that there are ways to eat less fat and overall order healthier options at the chain. And if you’re looking to significantly lower your saturated fat intake, we recommend making your favorite Taco Bell foods at home. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest health and nutrition news delivered straight to your inbox.
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