Chipotle Isn't As Good For You As You Think. Here's Why

Chipotle wants you to believe that the core of their values consists of engaging in the hard task of being better than its competitors, as well as for its customers and planet. It's listed on their website, after all. It's also how they describe themselves under the "About Chipotle" section of press releases: "Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc... is cultivating a better world by serving responsibly sourced, classically-cooked, real food with wholesome ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives."

The inevitable "but" is that, as The Badger Herald points out, Chipotle, like most food enterprises, loads their products with sodium. Taking a look at the burrito page in the nutrition section on Chipotle's website, they list the amount of calories, fat, and protein for the tortilla alone as 320, nine grams, and eight grams. Hidden until you look for it is the sodium level which is 600 milligrams.

The amount of sodium you should ingest daily, as recommended by the CDC, is 2,300 milligrams; the American Heart Association states that it really should be closer to 1,500 milligrams. So, without filling, the burrito already sees your sodium intake reach almost half of the more radical limit and over a quarter of the most relaxed suggestion. Adding chicken, guacamole, and Monterey jack cheese brings the sodium content of the burrito to 1,470 milligrams. 

Sodium is added to everything

In 2016, NPR reported that 89 percent of all American adults consumed more than the 2,300 milligrams of sodium recommended by the CDC, with men topping out at 4,400 milligrams and women at 3,100 milligrams each day. The reason isn't due to an overly generous sprinkling of salt, but from the processed foods we buy from supermarkets and eat at restaurants. "It's very difficult for individuals to lower consumption on their own, because there's so much sodium in everything they eat," Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC told NPR.

The reason brands like Chipotle add so much sodium to their products is because food with sodium pleases us more than food without, pleasing us to the point of addiction. This addiction, as a 2016 study covered by The Sydney Morning Herald suggests, has its basis in our opioid system, which floods our brain with dopamine as a reward. This also drives our salt cravings, which prompts us to eat sodium-laden foods, like Chipotle. So, while Chipotle may strip their food of unwanted fat and carbs, on the sodium front, it fails to distinguish itself from the industry.