A Fresh and Healthy Take on Tacos

Swap beef for plant-based proteins to make them better for your body—and reduce your risk of liver disease.

Bean tacos with toppings

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on February 11, 2022

Tacos are quick and easy to prepare and almost infinitely customizable. You can mix up your proteins, veggies, wraps, and toppings to suit your tastes and diet priorities. One way to spruce up your tacos—and make them potentially easier on your liver—is to skip ground beef and use beans as a filling instead.

Flavorful, tender beans make a hearty, healthful taco base. And research suggests that replacing ground beef with healthy carbs like beans could mean less risk of liver disease, too.

Liver-friendly diet
Researchers have suspected for a while that dietary changes could be an important way to reduce the risk of liver disease. One study linked the Mediterranean diet to a lower incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a risky condition in which fat builds up in the liver.

Published in 2022 in Nutrients, the study examined 1,403 older men living in Italy. The men who stuck closely to a Mediterranean-style diet—which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, beans, and olive oil, and low consumption of red meat—were less likely to develop fatty liver, an early stage of NAFLD. On the other hand, men who ate more red meat were at higher risk.

NAFLD is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, and it can result in scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. The condition is on the rise and it’s thought to affect up to three-quarters of people who carry excess weight.

Research is ongoing to better understand how diet influences liver disease. But we already know that eating lots of high-fiber veggies and other healthy carbs while reducing your red-meat intake is a no-brainer for your health.

Beans are a staple of the Mediterranean-style diet, as well as many other healthy diets. Pinto beans or black beans, in particular, pair beautifully with cumin and chili powder to fill your tortillas.

Choose whole foods
For better overall health, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains are where it's at. As a bonus, try adding cooked, seasoned winter or summer squash (which are technically fruits!) on your taco. Fiber-rich whole foods like squash are beneficial for your gut, too.

And when you’re planning Taco Night, don’t forget the toppings! Add chopped fresh cilantro and a dollop of homemade guacamole for yet more health benefits.

Article sources open article sources

Ioannou GN, Morrow OB, Connole ML, Lee SP. Association between dietary nutrient composition and the incidence of cirrhosis or liver cancer in the United States population. Hepatology. 2009;50(1):175-184. doi:10.1002/hep.22941
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing High Cholesterol. Page last reviewed September 8, 2021.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & Facts of NAFLD & NASH.
Lampignano L, Donghia R, Sila A, et al. Mediterranean Diet and Fatty Liver Risk in a Population of Overweight Older Italians: A Propensity Score-Matched Case-Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2022;14(2):258. Published 2022 Jan 7. doi:10.3390/nu14020258
Kumar R, Priyadarshi RN, Anand U. Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Growing Burden, Adverse Outcomes and Associations. J Clin Transl Hepatol. 2020;8(1):76-86. doi:10.14218/JCTH.2019.00051
University of California Cooperative Extension Vegetable Research & Information Center. Frequently Asked Questions. Last updated August 21, 2020.
Alferink LJ, Kiefte-de Jong JC, Erler NS, et al. Association of dietary macronutrient composition and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in an ageing population: the Rotterdam Study. Gut. 2019;68(6):1088-1098.


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