"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


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.


Pasteurized Process American Cheese


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).



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).


Chopped onions.


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


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


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.


Mike McCarthy

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?


$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.

Not Sean

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.


In addition, if you did a 30 day SuperSize me of the two, the lentil diet would make you lose weight and make you healtier whereas the McD's diet we have already seen the 30 day results....


@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.


Not true: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4338/2

All The Amino Acids are there.


Confucius say: where there is the mcdonalds mcdouble, there you will also find type 2 diabetes


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

David Kaine

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.


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.



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


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

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


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.)


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?


It's also a pretty tasty burger


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.


Really? The 'cost' of cooking & seasoning them? Boiling water: cost is negligible. salt or hot sauce per serving: same.

Eric M. Jones

From Wikipedia: "Instant noodles were invented by Taiwan-born inventor Momofuku Ando in Japan....

According to a Japanese poll in the year 2000, "the Japanese believe that their best invention of the twentieth century was instant noodles."[6] As of 2010, approximately 95 billion servings of instant noodles are eaten worldwide every year. China consumes 42 billion packages of instant noodles per year – 44% of world consumption – Indonesia, 14 billion; Japan, 5.3 billion, Vietnam 4.8 billion, USA 4 billion. Per capita, South Koreans consume the greatest amount of instant noodles, 69 per capita per year."

Momofuku Ando got his obituary and a big story in the NYTimes when he died January 5, 2007, having arguably done more to alleviate world hunger than any human in modern history.

They sure kept me alive at $0.10 each when I graduated from college and couldn't get a job.


The 'likes' and 'dislikes' on this thread reflect why our nation is so overweight and why america eats so much of the above mentioned burger


I hear what you're saying and you're right to some extent. But...if all someone did was eat 3 McDoubles a day(not the fries, not the soda), they would not be obese. They might be undernourished in fact. 1200 calories/day is below what one is supposed to consume.


The entire bun is devoid of nutrition. The beef is GMO grain-fed with a poor Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio and probably pumped full of antibiotics. Too much HFCS throughout. Too much salt. Too many weird things I've never heard of and would probably not want to eat. Too many mentions of "natural flavors", which is used to cover for ingredients (like MSG) everyone knows are unhealthy.


"The entire bun is devoid of nutrition"

Only if you consider calories, protein and vitamins to not be "nutrition".

The process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.
Food; nourishment.
nourishment - food - sustenance - diet - nutriment

mike h

How about eggs ?


You can add Big Mac sauce to these for $.10-$.25 depending on which McDonalds you go to.


I assume that during those whole hunter/gatherer and agrarian time periods, food was pretty cheap (ummm...free?) and nutritious, bountiful and plentiful and all that...


Its a good sandwich for sure, probably the best thing on McD's menu.


So... there is such thing as a $1 lunch?


with regards to macronutrients, the burger is definitely chuck full of them. it's not an overly large amount of calories, either. but the sheer amount of additives and preservative is ridiculous.
I'd eat it maybe once in a blue moon.
5/10 would maybe recommend.

rice and beans (generic beans) offer some of the most complete nutrional content of any food.

Becky D

Eggs or coconuts.
Eggs: $1-2 for 12. For me, 5'10" 130 lbs, weight trainer, MMA, Parkour, Paleo that's still 3 or 4 meals.
It takes two of those dinky little burgers to fill me up even if I did eat the bun.


I counted upwards of 75 ingredients and those are only the ingredients that the FDA requires McDonalds to mention. I think that qualifies as processed.

This article I just read mentions a link between cancer and eating meat.
"Another recent study published in Nutrition and Cancer, points out that increased exposure to chemicals in processed meats, including nitrites and nitrates, 'is a plausible mechanism by which [conventional] red and processed meat may increase colorectal cancer risk.'" (http://www.beyondorganicinsider.com/2013/03/meatheads.html)

Judging by the way American health looks right now. I'd say that burger ends up costing Americans a lot more money on health bills in the long run.


Can you quantify that risk? How many micromorts per burger? Or do we need to go down to nanomorts? If it's a 1-2% increase in chance per decade if you eat 2 of them for every meal, then that's probably not a risk that justifies completely changing your entire diet. We won't know unless we properly judge risk by a cost benefit analysis.

This document: http://tobaccodocuments.org/lor/03732381-2387.html says that 100 charcoal broiled steaks would be worth 1 micromort. That would put a single charcoal broiled steak at 10 nanomorts, and a mcdonalds burger would probably be less than that. That's a less than 1 in 100,000,000 chance of giving you a cancer that kills you.

Marc Resnick

Cans of sardines in olive oil, bags of dried lentils:

Cheaper: 1 can and 1/4 bag is $1.
More nutritious: more protein, more calcium, more fiber, more iron, healthier fats (olive oil and fish oil).
More convenient: can be stored in bulk, unrefrigerated, at home.
Less of the bad stuff: sodium, high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, preservatives/additives.