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Monday, September 24, 2018

Poisoned French Fries

     I don't like McDonald's fries for the simple reason that they are too salty, but they are extremely popular...and unhealthy. How can potatoes, even if they are covered in salt, be unhealthy?!  As bad as McDonald's fries are, they rank among the least unhealthy!  See the end of the post for a comparison.
     Nutritionally, a medium order of fries includes 340 calories, 16 grams of fat and 44 grams of carbs, whatever that means, but the fries are almost always, just a side dish combined with other nasty and equally unhealthy items. A breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee totals just about the same.
     What's shocking the amount of other ingredients in their fries, they're not just potatoes fried in oil and coated with salt. No, McDonald's fries have 19 ingredients consisting of chemicals, fats and acids. 
     One of the mix of ingredients is natural beef flavor. Beef flavor in French fries?! Originally, it was to put an end to cooking their fries in actual beef fat. The beef flavoring (the ingredients of which aren't required to be disclosed by the companies that manufacture it) doesn't technically qualify as an ingredient according to the FDA. McDonald's beef flavoring doesn't qualify it as suitable for vegetarians and in 2001, McDonald's was sued for trying to insinuate that was the case. 
     What else is in their fries? Dextrose glucose, a form of sugar, is added to their fries because the way their potatoes are par-cooked (partially cooked, to be finished later) removes the natural sugars. The dextrose glucose helps the fries achieve the uniform golden appearance. In other words, it colors the fries. They spray it onto the fries before cooking to keep them looking golden. 
     Tertiary butylhydroquinone, is a chemical preservative derived from butane which is used to extend the storage life of many foods. In fact, it's found in most processed foods. While not considered toxic, the health effects are significant...it can lead to vision disturbances, contributes to ADHD, causes nausea, delirium, tinnitus and vomiting in high doses. It may also cause food allergies.
     Polydimethylsiloxane is a form of silicone which is used in, among other things, the production of skin care products and silly putty. McDonald's uses it as an anti-foaming agent in the cooking process to prevent the oil from spitting and bubbling. The FDA approved it and most all fast food chains use it in the United States. 
     A citric-based antioxidant is used to boost the shelf-life. Then there's hydrolyzed wheat (used in hair products) and milk which are used with the beef flavoring to give fries their taste. What that means is if anyone has a food allergy to wheat or dairy products, McDonald's fries are unsuitable...pretty amazing considering they are potatoes. 
     McDonald's fries also contain a preservative called sodium acid pyrophosphate which has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. 
     How are McDonald's fries cooked? First, the potatoes, which are at least non-GMO, are peeled and cut then given a bath in some of the aforementioned chemicals then partially fried in oil, then the beef flavor and hydrolyzed wheat and milk is added. After that they are frozen and shipped. When fried in the restaurant (in more oil) the TBHQ is added. After cooking, they're liberally salted. Then they are eaten by the customer. 
     Despite the chemical concoction, frying is one of the least healthy steps in the process; they're fried in hydrogenated soybean oil which facilitates the inclusion of trans fats. Trans fats, rightly, are as bad as their reputation. A diet high in trans fats can lead to cholesterol problems, heart disease and strokes. Ten years ago McDonald's confessed the fat content of their fries was far greater than previously thought, but they didn't do anything about it. 
     Why do they continue to process their fries the way they do? McDonald's insists all the ingredients are necessary, but that's simply not true. There's no good reason. 
     In fact, outside of the United States all these ingredients aren't used. In India, for example, they use only potatoes, salt, vegetarian palm olein and a small amount of dextrose. In the United Kingdom non-hydrogenated oils are used to cook them. In Australia, Denmark and Israel, McDonald's uses canola oil so trans fats aren't included. 
     All said, an occasional order of fries isn't going to kill you, but in excess the long-term effects of many of those ingredients are risky and, besides, the fries have almost no nutritional value.
     Of course McDonald's aren't the only ones serving us a concoction of unhealthy fries.  Wendy's, Chick-fil-A Waffle Fries, Arby’s Curly Fries (they taste the same when you belch them up as when you first ate them), Five Guys (you could wring the greas eout of them), Sonic, or just about any other fast food chain's fries are all equally bad. 
     WebMD compared calories, fat grams, "bad fat" grams, percentage of calories from fat, and sodium levels for the "small" or "regular" serving of french fries at 14 major fast-food chains. There were none that could be considered healthy and "best" or "worst" depends on what category you are considering.

Lowest in Calories: 
Sonic Drive-In 

Lowest in Fat: 
Sonic Drive-In 

Lowest Percentage of Calories From Fat: 
Sonic Drive-In 
Dairy Queen 

Lowest in "Bad Fats" (saturated and trans fats): 
Sonic Drive 

Highest in Fiber: 
Jack in the Box Natural Cut 

Lowest in Sodium: 
Chick-fil-A waffle fries 
Sonic Drive-In regular 

Sonic Drive-In's regular fries are lowest in calories, fat grams, percentage of calories from fat, and total amount of "bad fats" and second lowest in sodium.) The runner up is McDonald's. 

Highest in Calories: 
Carl's Jr. Natural Cut 

Highest in Fat: 
Carl's Jr. Natural Cut small fries 
Arby's small curly fries 

Highest Percentage of Calories From Fat: 
Arby's Curly Fries 
Chick-fil-A Waffle fries 

Highest in "Bad Fat" (saturated and trans fats) 
Jack in the Box Natural Cut 
Long John Silvers 

Lowest in Fiber: 
Sonic Drive-In regular
Carl's Jr. Natural Cut 
Arby's curly fries 

     Healthwise, the all around loser is Carl's Jr. Natural Cut French Fries which are highest in calories and grams of fat. Sharing the award is Jack in the Box Natural Cut fries, which are shockingly high in "bad fats"

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