When a late-night craving strikes, nothing hits the spot like Taco Bell. The fast-food chain can offer up some healthy options if you need to keep your diet on track, and as long as you eat carefully, you don’t have to worry about avoiding this Tex-Mex favorite. But when you do plan to indulge, make sure to tread carefully, as some truly unpleasant side effects come alongside eating at Taco Bell.
Taco Bell makes their tacos and burritos taste irresistible thanks to high levels of sodium, fat, and even sugar in certain foods. When taken to the extreme, these added ingredients can do some punishing damage on your body. To figure out which side effects we need to keep an eye out for, we spoke with a variety of dietitians, doctors, nutritionists, and other experts to narrow down what we should expect to encounter when we go too hard at this classic fast-food chain.
Read on to learn the side effects of eating Taco Bell can do to your body, and for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Some of the most immediate effects that happen after we down a burrito or taco from Taco Bell takes place inside our brain.
“Nitrates in preserved meats and cheeses worsen depression,” Dr. Uma Naidoo, MD, Nutritional Psychiatrist and author of This Is Your Brain on Food explains. “A fast-food diet is one that contains processed and ultra-processed ingredients, usually processed vegetable oils, added sodium, added sugars as well as food colorants, dyes, fillers, and preservatives. These are all substances that are pro-inflammatory to the brain and body.”
“Poor food choices feed the bad bugs in our gut, helping them thrive and take over the good bugs (meant to help and protect us),” Dr. Naidoo continued. “Over time, the bad bugs cause inflammation, which can lead to leaky gut and neuroinflammation (brain). When this develops, it causes new mental health problems or exacerbates mental health symptoms you may already be struggling with.”
Get even more healthy tips straight to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter.
Even after you polish off a few tacos or burritos, you probably won’t feel completely satisfied. This feeling comes as a direct result of the ingredients that make up a Taco Bell meal.
“There is little fresh whole food with fiber and nutrients in fast foods so they move through your digestive system quickly and you often feel hungry soon after,” says Dr. Naidoo.
This lack of fiber creates an unending spiral of hunger might even lead to overeating as found in a study published in The Nutrition Review. To learn which items at the chain have the best chances of filling you up, check out Healthy Meals at Taco Bell That Are High-Protein.
When we dig into a box of tacos, increased feelings of depression isn’t the only thing to worry about.
“With a diet high in unhealthy trans fats, added sugars, and processed foods, the brain struggles to think clearly,” Dr. Naidoo said.
“Diets high in saturated fat can also have an effect on your cognitive abilities,” says Jay Cowin, ASYSTEM’s Registered Nutritionist and Director of Formulations. “Brain inflammation and insulin resistance, caused by saturated fatty acids, have been implicated in cognitive deficits.”
Not all of Taco Bell’s menu items create side effects that impact the way our brain processes thought. Too much Taco bell can also result in brain aneurysms.
“Saturated fats raise the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood,” says Cowin. “High LDL increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Saturated fat should not include more than 10% of your daily calories. The popular Cheesy Gordita Crunch Supreme has 11g of saturated fat itself.”
Offset your chances of this deadly side effect and read up on what foods you should eat in Foods That Help Stave Off Strokes After 40.
The same saturated fat that can lead to stroke can also do a real number on your heart health.
“Many of the food items at Taco Bell are oversized and also fried, cheesy, or contain beef,” says Dr. Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. “This combo is full of too many calories as well as saturated fat which, if consumed regularly over time, can lead to obesity and heart disease.”
Young also mentions how “a diet high in saturated fat can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol, thereby clogging the arteries which contribute to heart disease.”
When you need to stick to a healthy eating plan, make sure to balance out your Taco Bell runs with more wholesome eating options to glean the best nutrition from both worlds. If you do decide to overdo it at the chain, don’t be surprised if you encounter any of these ugly side effects.
Want to eat healthier at the bell instead of indulging and going overboard? Here are the Best & Worst Tacos at Taco Bell.