"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.


How about the pot of soup on my stove? Lentils, brown rice, broccoli, spinach, beef broth, (boxed) tomato soup, onions, garlic, spices. It's a huge pot, so perfectly abundant, and super cheap. My pot probably cost close to $15, because we have food allergies and can't use just any broths, but if you buy, for example, Better Than Bouillon instead of my soups, and used real tomatoes (I was just using up part of an open carton in the fridge), you could bring the price down closer to $7, and it's big enough to feed a family of 5 two or three times. Tell me again, how cheap that burger is? Lol! And mine is all real food, none of what I call the seventeen-syllable chemical preservatives and fillers.


I agree to a certain extent. The average American (works 9 hours a day, sleeps 6 hours every night, does not move incredibly much) does not require such nutritious foods. I often recommend the "cheeseburger diet" to my athletes who need calories that they can not acquire from broccoli and other popular "healthy foods" that more holistic-oriented dietitians recommend. Keep in mind that this hamburger also contains approximately 11g or 51% of your daily value of saturated fat. An excellent experiment would be to eat three of the hamburgers daily and see what it does to your blood lipid panel. Unfortunately, this is the case in food deserts across the nation with no access to fresh fruits and vegetables and only convenience stores and McDonalds exist.


The issue here is that the fat and sodium contents are relatively high. For 1 McDouble, you get about 30%-34% of your daily fat and sodium. Its saturated fat to, its not good for you. The calorie count is also half fat. I dont know about you guys, but have you ever had JUST 1 MCDOUBLE. The problem is they are not filling. I promise you that I order more then 1 every time I go. I could eat 2 McDoubles for every meal and still not be full. I would be greatly exceeding the daily recommended intake of fat and sodium.Yes, they are cheap, but the long term costs in a health sense just aren't there. So the opportunity cost of eating McDouble's would be the loss of your health and the increase cost of health care for obese or out-of-shape people. Further more, we can probably make a generalization (a broad one) to the likely life that someone has who consistently eats McDonalds. Either very busy or very lazy. No doubt full of stress, which causes your body to produce more hormones that actually cause increased retention of fat.


Dave F.

The whole farm industry is completely subsidized, making the cost way out of wack for one of those burgers. Check out the growing meat Ted talk to see what all the costs of making even just a 1/4 burger are. It is fairly clear that we aren't paying those at the McD counter

Dr Lou

Please enjoy your "nutritious" and unnaturally cheap MacDonald's items. Just don't refer to them as "food" ...because they're not to anybody with a working brain or palette.


Well considering the risk with all processed foods backed up by the following references(wikipedia, it is the best I can do right now since I don't read science journals on health), obviously it isn't as healthy for your heart and also might cause cancer.


I would refrain from eating processed foods on a daily basis, I'd rather cook some fresh vegetables at home.


LOL... I get it: This article, which mildly praises McDonalds, was a sociological experiment on how self-righteous people signal in regards to fast food.

Economists have the best sense of humor. :)


Nothing on fat content? How lean is the beef? High triglycerides and cholesterol that come from consuming to much fat contribute to a whole host of health probelms.

As far as calories per dollar, you can't beat it, but not all calories are created equal.


so we're all going to ignore the 42% saturated fat, 22% cholesterol, and 35% sodium?


The price paid by the consumer at point of purchase does not include all costs. There are farm subsidies financed by taxpayers, including for corn and soy that has lead to a deterioration of land quality. There is also the externalities associated with industrial meat production. Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman have written about these issues in a way I find compelling.

Another thing is that there are other components of food that nutrition science does not yet know the function of. (I believe I read 90% + of the compounds in unprocessed food are yet to be understood.)


It depends on what you mean by "nutrition" and "bountiful". It is certainly possible to make healthy fast food choices, and fast food is often cheap. The problem is that fast foods like fries and sugared soda, which most people order with their McDouble are not particularly nutritious. I would consider Wendy's chili cheaper and healthier, and know many of the options at Subway are not particularly healthy.

People will continue to enjoy foods high in salt, sugar and fat -- regardless of whether it is at a high end restaurant, in their own home, or a place like McDonald's. Some people have made a religion about avoiding all of these things. Perhaps it is good to show some personal restraint, but some studies suggest that no one diet is drastically better than others. The risk factors doctors use to predict heart attack risk do not predict which people over 60 will have a heart attack. There is nothing wrong with a McDouble at all, but if you eat them often better pick a salad and a low calorie drink. And there is plenty of food I consider more bountiful.