What’s in your Taco?


Tacos are a favourite at our place, we love Mexican food (who doesn’t?) and when it is prepared correctly there is a whole lot of nourishment to be found with the perfect combination of quality proteins, fresh vegetables and super-food spices; but like most products found on supermarket shelves, the term ‘convenience’ often comes at a hefty price.

On a recent trip to the supermarket I noticed a popular Taco kit on display. Being the investigator that I am, I couldn’t help but flip over the packet and had a quick peak at the ingredients. What I saw left me saying a whole lot of ‘what the hell’?

The following is a list of ingredients I use to make my taco’s at home. For comparative purposes only, I have listed what I use for the shell, the sauce and the seasoning:

  1. Lettuce Cups
  2. Sweet Paprika
  3. Onion
  4. Garlic
  5. Cumin
  6. Hot Paprika
  7. Organic Tomatoes (fresh or from a glass jar depending on the season)
  8. Organic tomato paste (Listed ingredients: certified organic tomatoes)

As you can see, I use a total of 8 ingredients. Of course you have to add your other vegetables and protein source, but remember, this is just to illustrate a point.

I took a photo of the listed ingredients contained within this popular brand of taco kits – don’t be fooled, this is just for the shell, the sauce and the seasoning – as you can imagine, what I got was a whole lot more than 8 ingredients, all of which are listed below:

  1. Wheat Flour
  2. Water
  3. Vegetable Oil
  4. Humectant (422)
  5. Salt
  6. Emulsifier
  7. Raising Agents (450, 500)
  8. Wheat Gluten
  9. Dextrose
  10. Preservatives (282, 202)
  11. Food Acid (297)
  12. Colour (171)
  13. Vegetable Gum (415)
  14. Antioxidant (306)
  15. Sugar
  16. Rice Flour
  17. Soy Sauce Powder (liquid soy sauce, maltodextrin, salt)
  18. Red Bell pepper
  19. Salt
  20. Paprika
  21. Onion
  22. Garlic
  23. Oregano
  24. Parsley
  25. Food Acid (330)
  26. Vegetable Oil
  27. Black Pepper
  28. Natural smoke flavour
  29. Anti-caking agent (Silicone Dioxide – from sand or quartz).
  30. Cayenne Pepper
  31. Water
  32. Tomato
  33. Capsicum
  34. Onion
  35. Modified Corn Starch (1422)
  36. Salt
  37. Sugar
  38. Paprika
  39. Garlic Powder
  40. Cayenne Pepper

For those of you looking to decode the numbers:

Humectant (422) – Derived by decomposition of fats with alkalis; usually as a by-product of soap making; can be obtained from petroleum products sometimes synthesised from propylene or fermented from sugar; large quantities can cause headaches, thirst, nausea and high blood sugar levels.

Raising Agents (450) – Salts of sodium/potassium/calcium with phosphates. All are produced synthetically from the respective carbonates and phosphoric acid. Used as buffers and emulsifiers. E450 (iii) also binds metals and prevents discolouration due to metals. 

Raising Agents (500) – Sodium carbonate is naturally occurring in alkaline waters, however it is also synthesised by the Solvay process or by electrolysis of sea water. Sodium carbonate is used as an acidity regulator, particularly in beer making. Excessive ingestion may result in stomach upset. May irritate the eyes and respiratory tract.

Preservative 282 – Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid, E280. It is used as an antimicrobial agent in bread to prevent germination of some types of bacteria which causes sticky yellow patches to occur. Typical products include bakery products, dairy products.  Can cause symptoms similar to a gall bladder attack.

Preservative 202 – Similar to 200. potassium sorbate is the sodium salt of sorbic acid. More soluble than sorbic acid. Typical products include cheese, butter, yogurt, preserves, pickles, dried fruit, cakes and wine.  Possible skin irritant, and may cause rashes, asthma and hyperactivity.

Colour 171 – Titanium Dioxide. Naturally occurring forms of titanium dioxide are usually impure, hence the sulphate process or the chloride process are normally used to harvest an acceptable purity of compound. Typical products include sweets, pharmaceutical tablets and vitamin supplements, sauces and cheese. Pollutes waterways.

Vegetable Gum 415 – Derived from the fermentation of corn sugar with a bacterium.

Food Acid 330 – Damages tooth enamel.  Most citric acid is produced from corn, manufacturers do not always take out the protein which can be hydrolysed and create MSG (621) causing reactions in MSG-sensitive people.

When it comes to eating real foods, the best thing you can do is start reading the list of ingredients on everything you buy from the supermarket. For my real food tacos, try my recipe for Paleo Fish Tacos here – it’s amazing!


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Meet Alyse

I’m a qualified Nutritionist who believes an evidence-based approach to modern nutrition is severely under-rated. Patients are so often left in the dark when it comes to health-care and as a firm believer in the old saying “knowledge is power”, my ultimate goal is to provide my readers, students and patients with clear and actionable advice that ultimately helps you reach your full potential.