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Chipotle Mexican Grill: The Trojan Horse of Healthy Eats

Updated: Mar 2, 2023


Note: My family will be livid when this exposé reaches their email inboxes because Chipotle Mexican Grill is a family favorite.


But sometimes, telling the truth costs relationships. And nonetheless, nutritional truth-telling is my duty.


So to my family: Let it be known that I love you and care for your health. You are the reason I do what I do.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is not healthy or harmless

I must admit, Chipotle has an expert marketing team.


Advertising its food to be healthy, they've manipulated millions of Americans (including myself at one time) to believe that the food its restaurant serves is unmatched in quality.


Phrases like "Natural," "Raised without antibiotics," "Whole30," "Real," and "Gluten-free" are classic examples of Chipotle's tactics to convince the public that what their restaurant is serving is healthy and uncommon.


Think of those phrases as virtue signaling. And like most virtue signalers, Chipotle has very few virtuous traits.


Natural: The only requirement for a food company to slap the word "natural" on their products is to guarantee that there are no artificial ingredients in the food. This is meaningless. Disease-inducing foods like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils are considered "natural" under these standards. (1, 2)

Raised Without Antibiotics: This only tells us what isn't in the meat, it does not tell us how the animals were raised. Grass-fed beef and free-range chicken? Nope. It can be presumed that both are from overcrowded factory farms fed a diet of soy and corn. And by the way, using antibiotics to fatten cattle or poultry is illegal. Congratulations Chipotle, you follow the law. (3,4)


Whole3O: I love the concept of Whole30 eating. However, there is a fundamental flaw within the system. Being that it allows for the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acid seed oils, the regimen fails to acknowledge the complicated health effects of eating these oils. Additionally, seed oils should never be considered a "whole" food given that they are not found in nature. Here we see Chipotle hopping on the broken Whole30 bandwagon. Do not get on board. (5)


Real: "Our ingredients are real!" As opposed to what, "fake" ingredients? I'm literally not buying it.


Gluten-Free: As I've expressed before, just because a food doesn't contain ingredient X, it does not mean that it's a health food. Read The Problem With Going Gluten-Free for my full thoughts on this concept.


I could go on, but the point is this: don't trust the food industry's marketing strategies.


Companies like Chipotle do not care about your well-being. They use baseless phrases to coerce the ignorant. Be vigilant.


Instead of trusting food companies at face value, we must bypass the seductive semantics and read the ingredients label to determine whether the given food is healthy or harmful.


At this point, it is necessary to define the word healthy.


Simply put, healthy foods can be understood as any food that prevents disease and enhances health.


Now, by knowing the definition of healthy we can apply its meaning to the food served at Chipotle that's said to be a "healthy alternative".


Meat:

As already mentioned, there is nothing exemplary about Chipotle's meat that is "raised without antibiotics."


For comparison, Mcdonald's and Chick-Fil-A don't even use meat raised with antibiotics. Although, this isn't my biggest concern regarding Chipotle’s meat.


What is most worrisome are the other ingredients Chipotle is adding to their meat: seed oils.


The restaurant marinates its beef, pork, and chicken overnight in a pool of either sunflower or rice bran oil.


Thus, the meat that ends up being served is saturated with undue amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids.


Because of their molecular structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are vulnerable to oxidation, and thus advance inflammation.


When the body is chronically inflamed, disease is fostered and health is prevented.


Furthermore, these unstable fats directly impair mitochondrial function which further enables the progression of diseases such as cancer and diabetes.


Last but certainly not least, when these fats are oxidized, they essentially morph into super-toxins that damage DNA replication.

This suggests that these oils are not only wrecking your health but also intercepting the health of your future children. (6, 7 )


Seeds oils are the enemy of health. Therefore, Chipotle’s seed-oil-soaked meat is incompatible with health and a close companion with metabolic disease.


Rice and Beans:

The rice and beans Chipotle uses are non-organic and conventionally grown. But, again, this isn't what keeps me up at night.


My distress stems from the fact that seed oils are incorporated into both the rice and beans served at Chipotle. More gasoline to the fire.


Fajita Vegetables:

Contrary to what one might believe, these veggies are doing much more harm than good.

Because they're sautéed in a pool of sunflower oil, these guys are harming your health. Steer clear of the veggies.


Toppings:

Being that there are no seed oils in Chipotle's salsas, sour cream, and guacamole, they are the least damaging foods the restaurant serves.


However, being that these sides are made up of non-organic, non-local ingredients, they are far less than ideal.


Honey Vinaigrette:

Instead of using olive oil like any decently-minded restauranteur, Chipotle uses rice bran oil for their honey vinaigrette.


Because seed oils are 6x cheaper than olive oil, Chipotle cuts this corner and opts for the cheaper, more deadly oil to use in this dressing. Once more, this just pours more gasoline on the fire.


Chips and Tortillas:

The seed oils are inescapable. Both the tortillas and the chips utilize these crass lipids.


Furthermore, sunflower seed oil is what Chipotle uses to fry its corn chips.


Heating this already vulnerable oil accelerates the oxidation process of the fatty acids, which destabilizes the oil even more so. Calling these chips unhealthy would be too generous.


When consumed, these chips are aiding and abetting disease faster than you can say the word inflammation.



The Reality of Seed Oils

Seed oil defenders often project the phrase "the dose is in the poison". Even if I agreed with that catchphrase (which I don't.


There are countless compounds that are poisonous at minute dosages, but this doesn't apply here.


At the end of a Chipotle meal, the polyunsaturated fatty acid count is off the charts. Its consequences?


An internal firestorm.


If you're like my family, I understand that these words are words that bring forth a plethora of emotions.


Regardless, you are not alone. I, too, formerly identified as a Chipotle fan. However, I can no longer eat Chipotle knowing that it is a disease super-spreader.


At the very least, my hope is that you at least listen to the whistle I'm blowing: Chipotle is harmful.


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12 Comments


Connor Collins
Connor Collins
Feb 28, 2023

It is not true that it is illegal to use antibiotics on poultry: the only rule in place currently is that humanly important antibiotics cannot be used to promote growth. McDonalds and Chic-Fil-A don’t use chicken raised without antibiotics; most fast food chains (like them) use meat that only doesn’t use antibiotics for growth, but does for “disease prevention” (or worse yet, uses “non humanly important antibiotics“ for growth). Which means the no antibiotics ever claim does mean something, and you’re entirely missing it. However, I appreciate you calling out the seed oils on here. That sadly is news to me.

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vancevoetberg
vancevoetberg
Feb 28, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for your comment, Connor!


I thought it was clear when I said, "using antibiotics to *fatten* cattle or poultry is illegal."


I also cited a Consumer Reports article about the distinction you brought to light.


I really appreciate the feedback!


- Vance

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jamesmlee20
Dec 22, 2022

Thank you for posting this. Down with Chipotle!!!!

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yungricern
Nov 22, 2022

still chipotle is at the top of healthiness compared to many of the other fast food joints and most of the pufas found within the rice and meat can be cancelled out with the cheese and sour cream

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vancevoetberg
vancevoetberg
Feb 04, 2023
Replying to

Oxidative stress can be alleviated primarily through exercise and eating antioxidant rich foods. Contrary to what's suggested above, sour cream and cheese (especially the products Chipotle uses) do not neutralize free radical damage caused by seed oils.


Even with an active lifestyle and a diet rich in antioxidants, seed oils still cause significant metabolic damage. Honestly, there's no way to "cancel" them out once consumed. That's why it's just best to avoid them altogether :)


Thanks for your comment and I hope you read some of my newer posts regarding these pressing issues.


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Jen Kern
Jen Kern
Aug 15, 2022

Thanks for sharing this - insightful and frustrating at the same time. Are there fast casual places you will still eat at? I want to minimize seed oils much as possible and sometimes take out has to happen..

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vancevoetberg
vancevoetberg
Aug 15, 2022
Replying to

Jen,


Thank you for your comment.


I understand that there are times when avoiding all seed oils seems like an impossible challenge. They're omnipresent. That said, we still want to try our best to minimize seed oil intake as best as we are able to. I recommend cooking & eating at home whenever possible and save eating out for when you travel. And even when you do eat out, there are certain things to keep an eye out for. The vast majority of restaurants (even "nice" restaurants) use seed oils to make salad dressings, marinades, and roasted veggies. However, most cooks refrain from using seed oils when they grill steak or chicken. Also, fresh fruit is always a win.


Keep…


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ashleyly2000xx
Oct 20, 2021

your whistle sounds like a blaring honk. I think I’ll need some time to grieve.

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Vance Voetberg
Vance Voetberg
Oct 20, 2021
Replying to

There is help for people like you. Getting involved in a support group would be my advice.

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