What Nutrients Are Lacking in Fast Foods?

Multi-ethnic teenaged couple eating candied apples
Two people are eating fast food. (Image: Erik Isakson/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Fast food is convenient and cheap. For large families, people on the go or those on a strict budget, fast food can seem like the best solution. However, a diet composed mainly of fast food lacks many essential nutrients. Eating fast food once in a while won’t affect your health, but if this is all you eat. you might end up with a vitamin deficiency.

Fiber

Fast food is usually devoid of fiber. This is because fiber is most likely to be found in unprocessed foods, like whole grains and vegetables. Bread used in sandwiches, wraps and hamburgers is likely to be white bread, which contains almost no fiber. Vegetables are also high in fiber, but sandwiches, wraps and other fast-food dishes rarely contain a significant amount to provide the fiber needed in your diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Most fast food has been stripped of any vitamins and minerals. Nutrients are more abundant in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, none of which are likely to be found in fast food. Hamburgers, fries, chicken nuggets and other common fast food options are especially low in nutrients. Salads might be more nutritious, although not always. For example, McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken contains 130 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A and 50 percent of the required vitamin C. The Side Salad, however, only contains 45 and 25 percent of the same nutrients. Calcium and iron can be found in some fast food items, such as burgers with cheese or burritos. However, no other essential minerals, like zinc, potassium and copper, are likely to be found in fast foods.

Healthy Fats

Mono and polyunsaturated fats can be found in vegetable items such as olive oil, olives, nuts, avocado and flaxseed. These fats are rarely found in fast food dishes. Instead, most fast foods are high in saturated fats.

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