Nobody can deny how spectacular McDonald’s is at marketing their products. Every time you see those golden arches, your mind immediately runs to their crispy, salty french fries.
Of course, neither is anybody fooled into thinking that the fast-food chain is actually a place where smart, healthy eating choices are made. For starters, ingredients in Mcdonald’s french fries, addictive as they are, have been associated with serious health risks including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even potentially cancer.
McDonald’s Fries Ingredients List
- Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil)
- Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]. *Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients
- Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color)
So, no, their french fries actually aren’t vegan in North America! (1)
4 Big McReasons To Stop Eating McDonald’s Fries
1. High Omega 6:3 Ratio
Food ingredients are listed in order of their quantity, and McDonald’s french fries have a mix of 4 different vegetable oils in second place. In addition to very commonly being genetically modified foods, vegetable oils are inflammatory because of their Omega-6 content.
Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 are necessary for your health, however, if you fail to maintain an adequate Omega6:3 ratio, it’ll lead to chronic inflammation because of the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids made from Omega-6 fatty acids. The higher your Omega-6 levels are, the more Omega-3 you need. (2)
Now, it’s worth noting that researchers have learned not all Omega-6 sources are the same; for example, eating nuts doesn’t seem to pose the same health risks (3).
Sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and peanut oil all contain high amounts of Omega-6, while coconut oil, butter, and olive oil have low amounts. (4)
In 2002, scientists discovered a chemical called acrylamide in some foods. Acrylamide is a chemical found to be carcinogenic in animal studies, which is used in certain industrial processes (it’s also found in cigarette smoke). We now know that acrylamide can form in starchy foods like potatoes when exposed to high heat. (5)
Researchers are still working to find out for sure if acrylamide is also carcinogenic for humans. The FDA currently regulates acrylamide levels in processing plants, however, it does not measure acrylamide content in food itself.
Of all the ways to prepare potatoes, frying them causes the highest levels of acrylamide. The American Cancer Society suggests roasting or boiling them instead. (5) So, sorry, swapping McDonald’s fries for Wendy’s fries won’t do you any good.
3. Heart Disease
Hydrogenated (or modified) vegetable oils are very high in trans fats, which are toxic substances that have been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. (6,7,8)
Additionally, “There is evidence from both randomized controlled trials and observational studies that vegetable oils can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.” (2)
4. Week-Old Deep Frying Oils
You’ve probably guessed that fast food restaurants don’t replace their frying oil after each batch of french fries is done cooking. McDonald’s has reported that they “filter” their deep frying oil on a daily basis, but only replace it once a week. (9)This means that french fries are cooked in oil that has been re-heated many, many times.
Consumption of reheated vegetable oils has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (10), higher blood pressure (11), and higher cholesterol levels (12).
The Good News: McDonald’s No Longer Adds TBHQ to Their Food
Tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, is a preservative used in oils and fats. It has been linked to tumor growth, liver enlargement, and neurotoxic effects in animal studies and potentially behavioral problems in humans. (13)
While McDonald’s has used TBHQ in the past, it has phased out the practice:
“Our fried menu items are cooked in a vegetable oil blend with citric acid added as a processing aid and dimethylpolysiloxane to reduce oil splatter when cooking. We are no longer adding TBHQ to our restaurant cooking oil, but as we transition to our new oil supply, some restaurants may have trace amounts of TBHQ in their cooking oil for a period of time. This information is correct as of February 2017, unless stated otherwise.” (14)
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