By Dr. Mercola
When you are cooking up your chicken at home, do you reach into your pantry to grab a dash of dimethylpolysiloxane? How about a pinch of tertiary butylhydroquinone?
These are just two of the ingredients in a McDonalds Chicken McNugget. Only 50 percent of a McNugget is actually chicken. The other 50 percent includes corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents, and completely synthetic ingredients that no home cook would have in her pantry. Dimethylpolysiloxane is an anti-foaming agent made of silicone. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you.
Organic Authority1 helpfully transcribed the full ingredients list provided by McDonalds:
"White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary).
Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch.
Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent."
There's no doubt about it. Processed food like that from McDonalds is just not part of a healthful diet – in fact, much of it cannot even pass for real food.
After reviewing the above article I am very grateful I can say I have never had a Chicken McNugget from McDonalds. If you can't say the same, at least you can commit to never having another one again. This sentiment was echoed by Federal Judge Robert Sweet in a lawsuit against the restaurant chain back in 2003 when he said:
"Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook."
At the time, Time Magazine 2 reported that Judge Sweet "questioned whether customers understood the risks of eating McDonalds chicken over regular chicken." That was almost a decade ago, and I still wonder whether or not McDonalds customers truly understand the risks they take when consuming fast food on a regular basis.
If you missed Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super-Size Me," I highly recommend you watch it with your entire family. It's a real-life illustration of just how dangerous – life threatening, in fact – an excessive fast food diet can really be. And "excessive" consumption is likely far less than you imagine. Eating fast food just twice a week DOUBLES your risk of developing insulin resistance compared to eating it just once a week, for example. Insulin resistance, as I've discussed on many occasions, is one of THE primary driving factors behind most of the diseases we currently struggle with, from diabetes to cancer and heart disease.
The truth is, a McDonalds fare contains non-food ingredients that can seriously harm your health.
This shouldn't come as any great surprise. After all, how healthful can something be that shows no signs of decomposing after being left on a counter for more than a decade… which is exactly what happened when a Happy Meal was put to this challenge. Clearly, there are more chemicals in there than actual, real foodstuff.
Chicken McNuggets: 'Made With White Meat'... and What Else?
According to McDonalds, their chicken nuggets are "made with white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter." But as the article above shows, these chicken nuggets are a far cry from what you might expect, based on that description. About half of it is actual chicken. The rest is a mix of corn-derived fillers and additives (most likely genetically modified), along with a slew of synthetic chemicals, including the two mentioned above:
- Dimethyl polysiloxane, a type of silicone with anti-foaming properties used in cosmetics and a variety of other goods like Silly Putty
- Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum-based product with antioxidant properties
The latter, TBHQ, is typically listed as an "antioxidant," but it's important to realize it is a SYNTHETIC chemical with antioxidant properties – NOT a natural antioxidant3 .The chemical prevents oxidation of fats and oils, thereby extending the shelf life of processed foods. It's a commonly used ingredient in processed foods of all kinds, but you can also find it in varnishes, lacquers, and pesticide products, as well as cosmetics and perfumes to reduce the evaporation rate and improve stability.
At its 19th and 21st meetings, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives determined that TBHQ was safe for human consumption at levels of 0-0.5 mg/kg of body weight. 4 However, more recently, the Codex commission set the maximum allowable limits up to between 100 to as much as 400 mg/kg, depending on the food it's added to 5. (Chewing gum is permitted to contain the highest levels of TBHQ.)
That's quite a discrepancy in supposedly "safe" limits! So, is the safe level zero, or 400 mg/kg? Who knows? According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives 6, one gram of TBHQ can cause:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sense of suffocation
The good news is that it is not suspected to be a persistent toxin, meaning your body is probably able to eliminate it so that it does not bioaccumulate. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on animal studies, health hazards associated with TBHQ include: 7
- Liver effects at very low doses
- Positive mutation results from in vitro tests on mammalian cells
- Biochemical changes at very low doses
- Reproductive effects at high doses
REAL Food 'Lives' and 'Dies'
I previously commented on the curious ability of McDonald's food to remain impervious to degradation. It's as if the food has been embalmed to stay "fresh" forever! After sitting on a shelf for 14 years, the hamburger bun has yet to develop a single trace of mold. It's barely even begun to shrivel. Folks, these buns bear absolutely no resemblance to real bread, and when you read the list of ingredients, this mysterious mummification feature becomes less of a mystery.
Always remember that wholesome, health-promoting food is "live" food, and the hallmark of live food is the fact that it will decompose. The fact that these burgers, buns, and fries do not decompose, even after a decade or two, is a clear sign that it's just not real food, and should not be part of your diet. Here are just a few of the "food" ingredients in a McDonald's hamburger bun:
- Calcium sulfate 8 (aka Plaster of Paris)
- Calcium carbonate 9 (Antacid)
- Ammonium sulfate 10 (According to MSDS, "harmful if swallowed")
- Ammonium chloride11 (Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea)
- Calcium propionate12 (Preservative)
- Sodium propionate 13 (Mold inhibitor)
You Are What You Eat...
The bottom line is, if you want to stay healthy and keep your children healthy, you have to avoid fast food and other processed foods and invest some time in your kitchen, cooking from scratch. Reclaiming your kitchen is part and parcel of healthful living, so you know exactly what you're putting into your body.
Ideally, you'll want to consume as much whole, raw, organic and/or locally grown foods as possible. That's one of the major reasons why vegetable juicing works so well – you're consuming living raw food! Most vegetables also have very low carbohydrate levels that minimally disturb insulin metabolism – another important trait of a healthful diet -- but there is something very special about vegetable juicing and eating live raw foods in general.
If you're "hooked" on fast food and other processed foods, please review my recent article about how to wean yourself off fast food in seven easy steps. If you're currently sustaining yourself on fast food and processed foods, this is probably the most positive life change you could ever make.
And if you have children, remember that feeding your children home cooked meals can have far reaching benefits, extending even to your future grandchildren. Yes, that's right! It is now well known that dietary changes can prompt epigenetic DNA changes that can be passed on to future generations. For instance, pregnant rats fed a fatty junk food diet had daughters and granddaughters with a greater risk of breast cancer.
Making wise food decisions can literally "override" genetic predispositions for disease.
Shopping Guidelines for Real, Health-Promoting Food
It is very difficult to control the quality of your food if you're eating in a restaurant, which is why I recommend that you prepare the vast majority of your food yourself. If you're going to occasionally dine out, you would be best served to avoid fast food places.
Whether you are grocery shopping or looking for dining options, the table that follows lists criteria to look for in identifying high-quality, health-promoting foods. If the food meets these criteria, it is most likely a wise choice and would fall under the designation of "real food." Optimal health also depends on your eating the right foods for your nutritional type. For a free Nutritional Typing test and information about my optimized Nutrition Plan, please visit this section of our site. Reclaiming your kitchen is part and parcel of healthful living, so you know exactly what you're putting in your body.
Grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods) Not genetically modified Contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs Does not contain any artificial ingredients, including chemical preservatives Fresh (keep in mind that if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may be the better option) Did not come from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) Grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free access to the outdoors) Grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)