KFC rolled out some plant-based chicken options on their menu. Just because something is labeled, plant-based does not mean it will be healthy. However, there is some good in the bad. But let’s start with the bad news first and see if it is really finger licking good!
Healthy Foods Depends on Cooking
How food is cooked has an impact on its health and nutritional content. For example, some vegetables are better cooked than raw. And some are better eaten raw. For instance, when carrots are cooked, it releases more beta carotene. So just because it is raw does not mean it is best or healthier. The same goes for meat or plant-based products.
The problem is fast food restaurants use a very low poor-grade of cooking oil high in saturated fats. And when the oil is heated, it gets oxidized significantly. Oxidation leads to inflammation in the body that cause diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. So, even using an excellent healthy cooking oil would not work because the heat would decimate all the good natural minerals and still produce inflammation.
So, deep frying plant-based chicken and real chicken has no difference.
Calorie Count and More
There is not much information about KFC’s plant-based chicken ingredients. Beyond Meat is the company creating the plant-based chicken for KFC. Their publicist said these numbers are what you can expect in one of KFC’s plant-based nuggets.
- 60 calories
- 3 grams of fat
- 0mg of cholesterol
- 145 mg of sodium
- 5 g protein
So, if you eat six nuggets, you consume 18 grams of fat and 870mg of sodium. Six KFC’s non-plant-based chicken nuggets are about 30g of fat and 1200mg of sodium. So, there is a difference in the fat and sodium but not enough to consider it a healthy option yet. Consuming 870mg of sodium for six nuggets is way too much for a tiny meal.
Beyond Meat Chicken Products
If you look at Beyond Meats Chicken Nuggets per 80g, they have 450mg of sodium with 256mg of potassium. Real chicken at 80g has 66mg of sodium and 178mg of potassium. Also, Beyond Meat has 13g of protein vs. 22g for protein in real chicken.
The problem is the sodium levels and the ratio of potassium to sodium. First and foremost, potassium helps to prevent diabetes and heart disease significantly. But it must have a greater ratio than sodium. Heart disease statistics are very high for Americans, and they are very deficient in consuming potassium. The average American consumes about 2g or less of potassium per day. The RDA is 4.7g per day. Also, because Americans eat way too much sodium, it flushes potassium out of the body, so 2g of potassium becomes less effective. However, you need a 3 to 1 ratio of potassium to sodium- 4.7g to 1.5g, for it to work effectively in your body.
Beyond Meat is not a healthier option than real chicken because it has an inverse ratio of 450mg of sodium and 256mg of potassium that is unhealthy.
The Good News
So, the good news is that plant-based is a great start and a good idea. However, good ideas need to be adjusted and changed to grow. Getting people to eat plant-based food is a perfect idea. No doubt. But things like the cooking process and ingredients need to change. If they can find another healthy cooking method besides frying and using an oil that will not clog up the arteries and lower the sodium, then I think they are on to something great.
Other food chains like Dunkin and Burger King are doing similar things, just not healthy, so plant-based is catching on.
People say the nuggets look smell and feel natural. But as for the taste, Ehhh! Mediocre was the word on the street. People prefer the taste of real chicken. If you have to drown the plant-based nugget in an unhealthy sauce, then what’s the point? I understand that it is not animal, and I am all for that. But to change the system, it has to be replaced with a healthier option and not rob Peter to pay Paul. It is not solving the nutritional disease dilemma. But, unfortunately, that’s is where we are today.
Good ideas take time to flourish. You have to place the nail before you hit it on the head. Maybe that is the next step to make fast food healthy- plant-based with healthier cooking and ingredients, and decrease sodium content. When that happens, you can say, “Winner, winner chicken dinner.”
You have to look at this as one step in the right direction to leap forward into healthy fast food hopefully. But for now, there is no such thing.