Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Old El Paso Products Bad For You?



Short answer

While Old El Paso products provide convenience and taste, their health impact depends on individual choices and overall dietary context. Many items may be high in sodium, contain added sugars, preservatives, and additives, and have varied macronutrient content. To ensure these products fit within a healthy eating pattern, attention to portion size, overall daily nutrient intake, and balance with fresh, whole foods is necessary. For those with sensitivities, caution is advised around potential allergens and additives. Ultimately, incorporating Old El Paso products can be part of a balanced diet with mindful consumption and by pairing with nutrient-dense foods.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Analyzing Nutritional Content in Old El Paso Products

Old El Paso, a brand well-known for its Mexican-style food products, offers a range of items from taco shells and tortillas to seasonings and complete meal kits. To understand whether these products could be considered healthy or potentially harmful, a detailed analysis of their nutritional content is essential. This evaluation involves looking closely at the calories, macronutrient balance, fiber content, sugar levels, and the presence of any additives.

  • Caloric Content: The products vary widely in caloric density. Taco shells and tortillas, for instance, can range from 50 to 150 calories per serving depending on the type and size. Meal kits can contain significantly more, given they include additional ingredients and toppings.
  • Macronutrients: Macro balance also varies by product. Typically, one serving of taco shells or tortillas will have 1-3 grams of protein, 2-8 grams of fat, and 10-20 grams of carbohydrates. Meal kits and seasoned meats will have higher protein content but may come with increases in fat and carbs.
  • Fiber: Fiber is an important component of a healthy diet, contributing to digestion and satiety. Some Old El Paso products, especially those using whole grains, may provide a decent fiber source, while others made with refined flour offer less.
  • Sugars: Sugars in these products may appear low per serving; however, it's common for consumers to eat multiple servings in one sitting, inadvertently increasing sugar intake. This is crucial in items like seasoning packets, which can contain added sugars and hidden carbs.
  • Additives: Several products within this brand's portfolio contain additives like preservatives, artificial flavors, and colorants. The effects of such ingredients are debated among experts. While generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by regulatory agencies, there is ongoing research into their long-term health impacts.

It's worth noting the brand's use of sodium. Seasoning mixes and prepared kits can be high in sodium, which might raise concerns for individuals monitoring their salt intake for health reasons, such as blood pressure management.

Nutritional Overview of a Selection of Old El Paso Products (per serving)
Product Type Calories Protein (g) Total Fat (g) Total Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Sugars (g) Sodium (mg) Additives
Hard Taco Shells 150 2 8 18 1 0 120 Yes
Soft Tortillas 130 3 3.5 22 1 1 280 No
Taco Seasoning Mix 15 0 0 3 0 2 300 Yes
Taco Dinner Kit 320 8 14 41 3 2 800 Yes

Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that some food additives used in packaged foods can cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals, making it essential to read labels, especially for those with known intolerances or allergies. The balance of macronutrients is also a point of consideration. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates should make up about 45% to 65% of total daily calories, protein 10% to 35%, and fats 20% to 35%. Hence, individuals should plan their meals accordingly to meet these nutritional guidelines while incorporating Old El Paso products into their diets.

When evaluating whether Old El Paso products are 'bad' for you, the nutritional context of the entire diet plays a crucial role. Although some products can provide convenience and flavor, mindfulness regarding portion sizes, additions to meals (such as toppings and sides), and the overall balance of one’s diet is necessary to ensure these products fit within a healthy eating pattern.

Preservatives and Additives in Packaged Food Items

When evaluating the health implications of Old El Paso products, scrutinizing the preservatives and additives used in their packaged food items is crucial. These substances are commonly incorporated into packaged foods to enhance shelf life, flavor, and appearance. However, their impact on health can be multifaceted and is worth careful consideration.

Common Preservatives in Old El Paso Products:

  • Sodium Benzoate: Often found in acidic foods, sodium benzoate is used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms. While generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, its interaction with vitamin C can lead to the formation of benzene, a known carcinogen. However, this reaction occurs under specific conditions and the levels found in food are typically well below the safety limit.
  • Potassium Sorbate: This preservative is effective against molds and yeasts. It's widely regarded as safe when consumed within the FDA's recommended limits. Excessive consumption over time could potentially lead to allergic reactions or nutritional imbalances.

Notable Additives in Packaged Products:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is a flavor enhancer and one of the most debated food additives. Some individuals may experience 'MSG symptom complex' or 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,' which can include headaches, sweating, and facial tightness. However, the FDA has categorized MSG as a GRAS substance, and studies have not conclusively proven its adverse effects in the general population.
  • Artificial Colors: Many packaged foods use artificial dyes to improve visual appeal. Some of these, such as Red 40 or Yellow 5, have been linked to behavioral changes in children with ADHD and are being re-evaluated for safety.

Preservatives and additives are rigorously tested and regulated; however, individual tolerance levels can vary. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Asthma and Allergy indicates that certain preservatives might exacerbate asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals. Similarly, research in the International Journal of Hyperactivity and Attention Disorders highlights possible correlations between certain food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

Consumers with specific health concerns or sensitivities should read labels carefully and consider if the preservatives and additives in Old El Paso products align with their dietary needs and restrictions. It's essential to maintain a balanced diet and be mindful of the cumulative exposure to these substances, especially if consuming multiple processed food items regularly.

For those looking to minimize preservative and additive intake, opting for fresh ingredients and cooking homemade meals is a reliable alternative. When choosing packaged food products, one can look for items that contain naturally derived preservatives like ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or have minimal additive content.

It's imperative to remember that the presence of preservatives and additives doesn't necessarily make a product harmful. Their safety is heavily dependent on the amount consumed and the individual's unique health context. As with any dietary choice, moderation is key, and staying informed about the latest research is vital for making healthy decisions.

Sodium Levels in Old El Paso Products and Health Implications

The concern about sodium levels in Old El Paso products is genuine, especially considering the recommendation of the American Heart Association to limit sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams for most adults. To understand the potential health implications, let's delve into the sodium content of various Old El Paso products and how this fits into daily dietary recommendations.

Many of Old El Paso's products, such as taco kits, seasoning packets, and ready-made salsas, tend to contain high levels of sodium which can contribute significantly to one's daily intake. An analysis of the nutritional information reveals that just one serving of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix contains approximately 300 to 600 milligrams of sodium. Considering that a single meal can include multiple servings plus additional ingredients, the total sodium intake can escalate quickly.

It's crucial to be conscious of these amounts, as high sodium intake is associated with various health risks. Chronic high sodium consumption has been linked to an increase in blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to a study published in the journal Circulation, excess sodium can cause harm to the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. Moreover, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that a diet high in sodium can lead to hypertension, calcium loss, osteoporosis, and even stomach cancer among other conditions.

With this in mind, individuals with hypertension, heart disease risk factors, or a family history of these conditions should be particularly vigilant about their sodium intake. Additionally, certain populations such as the elderly, African Americans, and those with diabetes are more sensitive to the effects of sodium and should aim for the lower end of the recommended daily sodium intake.

To help consumers balance their sodium intake while still enjoying Old El Paso products, it's important to look for "reduced sodium" or "low sodium" versions whenever possible and to augment these products with fresh, whole ingredients that are naturally low in sodium. Additionally, by preparing homemade alternatives to the seasoning mixes and sauces, one can significantly decrease the amount of sodium in their Mexican-inspired meals.

To put the numerical information into perspective, here's a simplified table highlighting the sodium content in a selection of Old El Paso products for comparison:

Product Serving Size Sodium Content (per serving)
Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix 2 tsp (6g) 300-600 mg
Old El Paso Hard Taco Shell 3 shells (33g) 160 mg
Old El Paso Refried Beans 1/2 cup (124g) 590 mg
Old El Paso Cheese 'n Salsa 2 tbsp (32g) 250 mg

Mindful of these figures, consumers are encouraged to combine Old El Paso products with fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to create a balanced meal that doesn't exceed the recommended daily sodium limits. It is fundamentally about striking a balance and understanding that while convenience is appealing, the long-term impact of high sodium levels on health cannot be ignored.

Being informed and proactive about reading nutrition labels and understanding portion sizes will empower consumers to make smarter choices when incorporating these products into their diets. It's also advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or a dietitian to tailor dietary choices to individual health needs, particularly for those managing chronic health conditions influenced by sodium intake.

GMO Ingredients: Concerns and Current Evidence

When it comes to evaluating the health implications of genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients found in many food products, including some offerings from Old El Paso, a mixture of concern and controversy often arises. GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Let's delve into the specific concerns associated with GMO ingredients and counter them with the current scientific evidence available.

Environmental and Health Concerns:

  • Cross-contamination with non-GMO crops.
  • Potential contribution to decreased biodiversity.
  • Possible development of resistance in pests and weeds to GMO crops.
  • Uncertainties regarding long-term health effects on consumers.

Some consumer advocacy groups argue that GMOs may carry risks that have not been fully uncovered by long-term research. For instance, there's debate on whether GMOs could potentially introduce new allergens into the food chain or cause unintended health consequences.

Current Scientific Evidence:

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report in 2016 found no substantiated evidence that GMO crops have caused health problems in humans.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) states that GMO foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) holds a position that genetically modified foods are substantially equivalent to non-genetically modified counterparts.
  • Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has shown that GMOs can deliver increased nutritional benefits, such as rice engineered to carry additional Vitamin A.

It is crucial to distinguish between the use of GMO for pest resistance and nutritional enhancement. Concerns often focus more on the former, where attributes such as herbicide tolerance can lead to heavy herbicide use—raising questions about residue on food and its implications for human health.

In regards to Old El Paso products, it is advised for consumers to check the packaging for non-GMO labels if GMO consumption is a concern. As of this writing, not all Old El Paso products are labeled as GMO-free.

When making decisions about consuming GMO ingredients in products like those produced by Old El Paso, consumers are encouraged to consider the evidence from both sides of the debate. Current scientific consensus indicates that GMOs are safe to consume. Still, some consumers choose to avoid them due to environmental concerns or personal health convictions.

For a more exhaustive understanding, consulting databases such as the Non-GMO Project can shed light on which specific Old El Paso products contain no GMO ingredients. In conclusion, while there are concerns regarding GMOs, the prevailing body of scientific research suggests that they are safe for consumption, though it is the right and responsibility of the consumer to make informed dietary choices based on their values and health goals.

Cultural and Traditional Alternatives to Old El Paso Products

Exploring cultural and traditional alternatives to Old El Paso products can offer not just a wealth of flavor but also potential health benefits. Traditional Mexican cuisine, for example, emphasizes fresh, whole foods and a variety of spices that come with their own unique health advantages. Below, we delve into some alternatives that echo the authenticity of Mexican culinary heritage and may offer a more wholesome choice.

Fresh Homemade Salsas: Instead of pre-packaged salsas, consider making your own. Traditional salsas like pico de gallo, made from fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice, provide vitamins and antioxidants without the added preservatives and sugar often found in store-bought versions.

Beans as a Staple: Beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine and a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. Skip the refried beans that may contain excessive sodium in favor of home-cooked black or pinto beans, seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices to taste.

Whole Grain Tortillas: Rather than processed flour tortillas, choose whole grain or corn tortillas. A traditional corn tortilla offers fiber and a more authentic flavor while being naturally gluten-free. Making tortillas from scratch or sourcing from local producers can further enhance this alternative.

Vegetable-Forward Dishes: Traditional dishes such as calabacitas (a dish featuring squash, corn, and peppers) or chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers) prioritize vegetables, providing valuable nutrients and reducing overall calorie intake, contrary to some processed options that are overly reliant on cheese and meats.

Mole from Scratch: When it comes to sauces, nothing quite compares to homemade mole—a blend of chilies, spices, and sometimes chocolate. This sauce has depth and complexity without the additives of shelf-stable sauces. Though labor-intensive, making mole at home allows you to control the ingredients, ensuring a healthier result.

Herbs and Spices Over Salt: Old El Paso products may be high in sodium, used as a preservative and flavor enhancer. Opting for herbs like cilantro or Mexican oregano and spices such as cumin and chili powder, both marks of traditional Mexican cooking, can enhance flavor while reducing sodium intake.

Fish Tacos with Fresh Fish: Instead of using battered or processed fish products, freshly grilled or sautéed fish serve as a healthier filling for tacos, providing rich omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein. Pairing with a homemade slaw or salsa maximizes freshness and nutritional value.

Regional Specialties: Investigate lesser-known regional dishes that rely on local, seasonal ingredients. For example, Yucatan cooking often incorporates citrus and achiote, a spice rich in antioxidants, while Oaxacan cuisine features an array of mushrooms and greens.

Conclusion: These examples showcase how traditional cooking methods and ingredients not only offer a deeper cultural experience but can also be better for your health. By choosing to prepare meals with these authentic alternatives, you can avoid the refined sugars, excessive sodium, and unhealthy fats that are often present in pre-packaged foods. Furthermore, the act of cooking according to cultural traditions can deepen your connection to the food you eat and its nutritional value.

Balancing Convenience with Healthful Eating Practices

Convenience is often a crucial factor when it comes to meal preparations for today's busy households. Old El Paso products, with their ready-to-fill taco shells and easily prepared spicy mixes, provide just that. However, is it possible to integrate these convenient solutions into a healthful diet? Let's break down how you can build a balance between saving time and nurturing your body.

Evaluating Nutritional Content: Firstly, assess the nutritional content of Old El Paso products. Many items tend to be high in sodium and may contain added sugars and preservatives. Opting for versions labeled "reduced-sodium" or "organic" can mitigate some of these concerns, ensuring you're not compromising on your dietary goals.

Customizing Your Fillings: The beauty of Old El Paso's taco kits and tortillas is that they serve as a vessel for a variety of fillings. Lean proteins such as grilled chicken, fish, or beans can boost the nutritional profile of your meal. Additionally, loading up on vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers not only enhances the flavor but also increases fiber and vitamin intake.

Portion Control: It's easy to overindulge with pre-packaged foods, but portion control remains key. Measure out appropriate serving sizes and complement your Old El Paso-based meal with a healthy side salad or steamed veggies to create a balanced plate.

Limiting Processed Ingredients: Look for Old El Paso products that contain fewer processed ingredients and avoid those with MSG or high-fructose corn syrup. Reading labels is essential, even when reaching for seemingly simple items like salsa or seasoning mixes.

Vary Your Diet: While integrating Old El Paso products for their convenience, it's important to ensure that your overall diet is varied. Regularly include fresh whole foods and cook from scratch when time allows, using the brand's items as an occasional quick fix rather than the center of your diet.

Healthier Alternatives: Exploring the brand's healthier alternatives can also make a significant difference. For example, choosing whole grain tortillas over refined ones can increase your intake of whole grains and fiber.

By considering these aspects, it is possible to enjoy the convenience of Old El Paso products while also maintaining a focus on nutritious, healthful eating practices. Remember, moderation and informed choices are the keys to a well-rounded diet.

Frequently asked questions

While many Old El Paso products are high in sodium, particularly the seasoning mixes and ready-made salsas, consumers on a low-sodium diet can seek 'reduced sodium' or 'low sodium' labeled versions of their products. Additionally, homemade alternatives for seasoning and sauces can help reduce sodium intake while still enjoying similar flavors.

Consumers concerned with the intake of GMO ingredients should check the packaging for non-GMO labels. While not all Old El Paso products are labeled as GMO-free, checking for Non-GMO Project verified products or looking for organic labels may aid in identifying non-GMO options within the brand's range.

Individuals with gluten intolerance should read labels carefully, as some Old El Paso products like flour tortillas contain gluten. However, there are gluten-free options available, such as their corn tortillas, which are naturally gluten-free and suitable for those avoiding gluten in their diet.

To avoid added sugars and preservatives, consumers can create homemade versions of salsas, seasonings, and toppings using fresh ingredients. Such alternatives not only enhance the nutritional value of meals but also provide better control over the content of sugars and unwanted additives.

Ask a question about Old El Paso Products and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • nausea
  • headaches
  • facial tightness

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • behavioral changes in children
  • nutritional imbalances
  • potential allergen exposure

Ingredients to be aware of


  • convenience
  • flavor
  • potential source of fiber and protein

Healthier alternatives

  • homemade salsas
  • home-cooked beans
  • whole grain tortillas
  • fresh ingredients
  • reduced-sodium versions
  • non-gmo labeled products

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Siete Taco Shells

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO
  • Paleo-friendly
  • Light & crispy
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-16-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-16-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!