“The Most Bountiful Food in Human History?”

(Photo Credit: Mike V)

A reader named Ralph Thomas observes the following:

It has been my gut-level (sorry, pun) feeling for a while now that the McDonald’s McDouble, at 390 Calories, 23g (half a daily serving) of protein, 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and iron, etc., is the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.

Who would like to argue against him? And if you attack on the “nutritious” dimension (I suspect you will), be very specific.

FWIW, here, from the McDonald’s website nutrition page, is a complete list of ingredients:

100% Beef Patty

100% Pure USDA Inspected Beef; No Fillers, No Extenders.
Prepared with Grill Seasoning (Salt, Black Pepper).

Regular Bun

Allergens: WHEAT, SOY LECITHIN

Enriched Flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Monoglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzymes, Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide), Sorbic Acid, Calcium Propionate and/or Sodium Propionate (Preservatives), Soy Lecithin.

CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY LECITHIN

Pasteurized Process American Cheese

Allergens: MILK AND SOY LECITHIN

Milk, Cream, Water, Cheese Culture, Sodium Citrate, Contains 2% or Less of: Salt, Citric Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Lactic Acid, Acetic Acid, Enzymes, Sodium Pyrophosphate, Natural Flavor (Dairy Source), Color Added, Soy Lecithin (Added for Slice Separation).

CONTAINS: MILK AND SOY LECITHIN.

Ketchup

Tomato Concentrate from Red Ripe Tomatoes, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Natural Flavors (Vegetable Source).

Pickle Slices

Cucumbers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Alum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavors (Plant Source), Polysorbate 80, Extractives of Turmeric (Color).

Onions

Chopped onions.

Mustard

Distilled Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Paprika, Spice Extractive.

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  1. Sean says:

    Finally! People always looked at me weird when I ordered three of these and left the fries to the fatties!

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    • Alex says:

      Love it. I usually order 2 and a salad. I think we are all blessed to have such an ample amount of food in the US that we pay so little for. We spend less than 9% of our income on food and that’s the lowest in human history. It’s a beautiful thing.

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/06/08/154568945/what-america-spends-on-groceries

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      • Mike McCarthy says:

        Compared to all other developed countries we spend the least amount of money on food. We also spend the most amount on health care. And we are sicker than the other developed countries. Is that a beautiful thing?

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      • Apu Garnesh says:

        “Compared to all other developed countries we spend the least amount of money on food.”

        This may be true, but it is largely because most of the other developed countries are either Japan, Korea, or in Europe, all of which heavily protect their agricultural industry, hence massively jacking up prices there. (The US protects its farmers too, but not to the same extreme.)

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      • J1 says:

        “Compared to all other developed countries we spend the least amount of money on food. We also spend the most amount on health care”

        Maybe the two are related; to the extent we are “less healthy” than other countries, it is for the most part associated with obesity. I disagree with the “less healthy” assertion, but that’s been covered in other posts. The important thing is that our country will never have (forgive me) the stomach to let fat people die because of obesity related illness, so our spending will always be higher regardless of the system we use.

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      • Joe says:

        In response to “Compared to all other developed countries we spend the least amount of money on food. We also spend the most amount on health care. And we are sicker than the other developed countries. Is that a beautiful thing?”…
        You are not dealing with the issue at hand. As a food product the McDouble is an excellent source of nutrition at very reasonable calorie count and excellent cost/benefit. There are a lot of people that put down this food because it is processed. Sure if you can afford the $8-12 and the extra time for an unprocessed beef and cheese product you are probably (a little) better off, but not much. Most of those “natural” products come with a lot more calories and fat.

        I would not support that it is “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”, but in terms of a choice that we can make during the day, it is certainly an excellent food product.

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    • Randal L. Schwartz says:

      I hope you also left the buns to the fatties. The healthiest part of this meal is the stuff between the buns.

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    • Mike Watson says:

      850mg
      Sodium
      (35%)
      Three mcdoubles would put you over your daily recommended limit of sodium. Not to be confused with your daily recommended amount which is significantly lower.
      Though visceral fat is dangerous, you don’t have to be over weight to die of stroke or a heart attack from taking in too much sodium.

      http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssodium/
      Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt)
      Sodium intake from processed and restaurant foods contributes to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Decreasing sodium intake to within recommended limits could prevent thousands of deaths annually.

      http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09354.html
      How much Sodium is Required?
      The Adequate Intake (AI) for sodium is 1,500 milligrams daily for males and females ages 9-50. This value is less than 1 teaspoon of table salt per day. The maximum recommended level of sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams daily. On average, more than 85% of American men and women consume sodium in amounts that far exceed the maximum recommended level of intake.

      Also depending on which salad you choose from mcdonalds you could be getting a product which is actually less healthy than their big macs. Its not a question of moderation, its a question of health, which a mcdouble is not in the conversation of.

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  2. Sean says:

    $1 for a 1 lb bag of lentils at wal-mart (about 4-5 meals comparatively). Much cheaper and not even competition for more nutritious. More bountiful? Not as available in the sense of preparation and there are probably more McD’s than grocery stores. Yes you have to cook yourself but that wasn’t a bar for competition.

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    • Not Sean says:

      I think the “bountiful” criterion is where McDouble has its only arguable advantage over lentils. That said, the McDouble is underrated, even if not the best.

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    • Mike.Gayner says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Mike.Gayner says:

        *because

        ugh haven’t had my morning coffee, we can’t edit for spelling errors?

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    • Dave F. says:

      Well, the 1lb bag of lentils provides 13 servings of 80 calories or 1040 total calories – about $2.66 worth of burgers. They have lots of protein, but a pure diet of these wouldn’t give you too much else. It usually takes a while to cook them too. I guess they are cheaper as long as you place fairly low value on your time.

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      • James says:

        While lentils and similar may take a long time to cook, it’s not MY time. I might wash & soak them the night before – takes me
        a minute or two. In the morning place them in the crock pot (with water & various additions) and turn on – another minute or two. In the evening dish them out. That takes maybe another minute. Say I get 5 meals worth from a pot, that’s about a minute of actual human time. I defy you to get a burger from the average McDonalds in less.

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      • LaVerne says:

        If time is a problem, you can cook lentils overnight in a slow cooker.

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      • bob says:

        I’ve seen Supersize Me. A pure diet of McDouble’s won’t do you any favors.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 22
      • Kevin C. says:

        So assuming we value our time at $6/hr, we’ve got a little more than 16 minutes of total lentil preparation time. Which doesn’t account for the fixed cost of cooking vessel, or the cost of the energy to heat the water, and presuposes we like our lentils REALLY bland.

        McDouble FTW.

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      • James says:

        I wouldn’t say covering lentils in water and turning on a burner for 30 minutes constitutes high time resources, but I guess I have so much more time on my hands. lol

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  3. sean says:

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    • john_d says:

      @Sean: You’d lose weight in 30 days because lentils are not a complete source of protein. Your hair would likely be falling out and your brain function would be on the decline. Also, lentils are bland and boring.

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      • sean says:
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      • tmeier says:

        De gustibus non est disputandum. I’m no lentil lover but fast food burgers and McDonalds’ products in particular disgust me. I would definitely prefer lentils cooked or spiced in any way.

        Back on topic I thought eggs offered the most complete and cheapest (and easy to prepare) high-nutrition food.

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      • LAC says:

        actually – SPROUTED lentils are a complete protein. a dried lentil lacks 2 essential amino acids, so without adding something to complete it (not necessarily in the same sitting but in the same day).

        Incomplete vs. Complete Protein
        Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids. The main sources of complete proteins are from animal based food, such as meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. Soy and quinoa are also complete proteins. Although incomplete proteins sounds like they are lacking and not as nutritious, they just need to be paired with another type of protein. For instance, adding peanut butter to bread creates a complete protein. According to Columbia University, the proteins do not need to be eaten together to receive the health benefits but any time within 24 hours will suffice.
        Lentils and Protein
        Lentils are rich in amino acids and high in protein. However, regular lentils are lacking in two essential amino acids. Because lentils do not have enough of these nutrients, the healthy legumes are an incomplete protein. However, lentils can be sprouted which changes their nutritional components. Sprouted lentils have an increase in all nine amino acids, although the exact increase is variable. To sprout your lentils, soak the seeds in cool water for eight to 12 hours. Rinse the lentils and store in a jar in a cool place for a few days, rinsing every eight hours.

        Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/527529-myth-of-lentils-as-an-incomplete-protein/#ixzz2OCa5uNVj

        http://nutrition.about.com/od/askyournutritionist/f/protein_combo.htm

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      • fizrat says:

        So cook some brown rice too. Still not breaking the budget.

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    • LAC says:

      actually – if you recall in supersize me, there was a guy in Minnesota who ate a Big Mac every single day. He NEVER ordered fries. HE SKIPPED the soda. He walks daily and is surprisingly trim.
      http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2011-05-21-big-mac-milestone_n.htm

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    • J1 says:

      Losing weight doesn’t make you healthier unless you’re overweight. It would be interesting to see how a “Supersize Me” diet balanced out though. With a similar caloric intake of each, I’m not convinced the lentil diet would leave you healthier. I definitely agree with john that a pure lentil diet would be worse for brain function than the McDouble diet. The lentils would be good for some other body functions though. Pass the ketchup.

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  4. frankenduf says:

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  5. Morgan says:

    Either I have misunderstood, or the premise is nonsensical. If nutrition score per unit cost is the critical factor in this decision, then any free food offers better value than a bought product. Other than the negligible time and energy cost of walking to a nearby bush, many of the world’s foods can be consumed entirely free of charge. Needless to say, they also offer more than zero nutrition, so their nutrition per unit cost is infinite. The same cannot be said of the McDonald’s McDouble

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    • David Kaine says:

      The entire foundation of humans’ separation from animals is the fact that we do not still spend 90% of our waking hours foraging or hunting for food. Yes, on a base level your argument is valid, however the spirit of the original statement isn’t there. We cannot get our food “from a nearby bush” and still function as a modern society.

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      • Morgan says:

        I’d have to disagree slightly, though not with total conviction. You are totally correct in what you say, but in the original statement, we are talking about ‘…the most bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.’ This, by my reckoning, means there is no reason we should be limited to considering this within the constraint of maintaining a functional modern society. I was personally unable to glean any particular ‘spirit’ in the statement, but this is obviously nothing more than a matter of interpretation. The problem, as I see it, is that this argument has been presented without any of the definitions needed to resolve it (or even to sensibly discuss it). For starters, we have no parameters for nutrition.

        While the proposition of a McDonald’s burger being the most bountiful food on the planet is mildly humorous, I’m struggling to see how this can be a serious discussion… which is absolutely fine by me. Perhaps it was never intended to be. Perhaps it means nothing at all. Perhaps nothing means anything. Oh dear.

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    • Kracken says:

      Interesting way to look at it, but I disagree. The discussion is about bountifulness which is more complex than the nutrition score per unit cost.

      But looking at it this way anyway… The time and energy cost of walking to a nearby bush is not negligible and also would not realistically be the only costs. I posit that it is fair to assume there would be time costs of information gathering on the subject of whether a bush is edible and where one can find it. You have to harvest the edible portion of the bush as well, which is obviously time consuming, assuming one must gather an entire serving.

      I guess if somehow we planted many of those bushes and farmed them, then harvested them in a more time-efficient, larger scale way, we could then process them into more nutrient rich forms, combine them with a full protein (beef for instance), and sell them widespread at convenient locations, which would create an incredibly bountiful food… Oh wait…

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      • Morgan says:

        An extremely neat way of looking at it and I admire your whole thought process. My only comment, which is in no way intended to be a counter to your argument, is that there is also a not insignificant time and energy cost in walking to McDonalds. It’s a price generally worth paying, in my experience.

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      • James says:

        “The time and energy cost of walking to a nearby bush is not negligible…”

        Nor is the time & energy cost of going to a McDonalds, especially if you drive your SUV and idle your way through the queue of a dozen or so cars in the drivethrough.

        There’s also a time cost of learning where the McDonalds are to be found, what’s on the menu, the particular customs involved in ordering & paying, etc. As someone who grew up far more familiar with edible bushes &c than fast food restaurants (I think I was 17 before I had my first McDonalds burger, and didn’t care much for it), I can tell you that you acquire much of the learning by osmosis, just as I expect city kids learn to navigate a world of fast food. That learning was not all that easy to acquire as an adult.

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    • J1 says:

      While many of the world’s foods can be foraged, the ability to do so is heavily based on location. Also, supply is rapidly affected if much of the population chooses to feed itself that way, which increases effective cost. If you factor in cost and bounty, Thomas’ observation seems valid.

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  6. Devon says:

    Add the junior chicken make the McGangBang sandwich and that creates the real cheapest nutrition powerhouse meal in history….thats what ill keep telling myself anyways

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  7. Sam says:

    I thought cheese was made from milk and bread was made from flour? ;-)

    Seriously, though, HELL of a lot additives…..

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    • Kazriko says:

      Cheese is primarily milk, but that is far from the only ingredient. Some of the ingredients are preservatives, but some are to make a better tasting product. Sodium Citrate, for instance, is to help mix the oils and waters in the product to make it smoother when melted. You can add this to pretty much any cheese to make them melt without separating like Velveeta.

      Bread wouldn’t be bread without sugars and yeast as well. You’d just get a flat blob of solid wheat stuff instead of bread. They’re using enriched flour as well, with added nutrients (like Iron.)

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      • James says:

        So they process the flour to remove most of the nutrients in order to make white flour, then bleach it to remove any that might be left, after which they add a few things and call it “enriched”. Does anyone else see a logic fail here?

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  8. Nat says:

    It’s also a pretty tasty burger

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    • Debbie says:

      I don’t see how you can claim an uncooked bag of lentils as a comparison to a sandwich that is ready to eat. You’d need to figure in the cost of cooking and seasoning them so they are reasonably palatable to an average person.

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      • Sean says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Debbie says:

        Boiled lentils with hot sauce is not what I would call palatable. I am a fan of lentil soup but it is going to cost me way more than a buck to make it.

        I don’t think the cost of cooking and seasoning them is remotely negligible. I can’t just whip out a bowl of lentils on the fly, so there is cost of time, the cost of where (do I have to run home?) and cost of materials.

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      • Michael says:

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      • Kazriko says:

        How many cubic feet of gas does it take to boil water? If you’re using electricity, how much electricity does your range use per hour to boil water? I imagine that it’s going to cost you at least $0.10 per pot to cook it in heating costs alone. Are you going to do the entire bag as one meal or multiple? Add to that your time, which if it takes 5 minutes to do is at least $0.60 at minimum wage. How long does it take you to find the pot, for the water to heat to boiling, and put it onto a plate afterwards? How much does your container of sauce cost, and what percentage do you put into your $1 of lentils? Negligible isn’t an answer, it’s a dodge.

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