Surprise! What’s Really In a Chicken Nugget?

June 21, 2017

What's Really in a Chicken NuggetWe’ve known for a long time that fast food chicken nuggets aren’t healthy, but new research is showing just what these fast food favorites are really made of, and it includes high amounts of partially hydrogenated oils, GMO oils, sodium, “other” ingredients and numerous chemicals.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine has found that 60% of the meat in a chicken nugget is actually fat, blood vessels, ground bone and gristle. 

Companies like Burger King claim “all white meat”, KFC says “100% breast meat, and McDonald’s states “made with USDA inspected white meat” but the research is showing otherwise..

If you consider that only 50% of the nugget itself is made up of chicken that means that only 20% of a chicken nugget is actually meat so what makes up the other 80%?  You’re about to find out.

What’s Really In a Chicken Nugget?

According to the ingredients listed on McDonald’s website they also put these suspect ingredients into their chicken nugget mix:

  •  TBHQ
  •  Autolyzed Yeast Extract (often contains MSG)
  •  GMO Corn
  •  Dimethyl Polysiloxane Anti-foaming Agent
  •  Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
  • Sodium
  • Bleached Wheat (gluten)
  • Sugar (dextrose)

These ingredients are downright scary at best and dangerous to your health and your families’ health.

Overall Nutritional Composition May Surprise You

Ten nuggets served without sauce gives you 22 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 30 grams fat, 270 calories, and 900 mg sodium.  The protein isn’t bad but the large amount of hydrogenated fat and sodium are extremely high for the amount of calories.


Unhealthy Hydrogenated Oil

Most everyone in the health industry agrees that hydrogenated oils cause disease and obesity. The 30 grams of fat in these nuggets are sure to cause heart disease and inflammation throughout the body.

The different types of genetically modified oils in nuggets include canola oil (banned in Europe), soybean oil (GMO), corn oil (GMO), partially hydrogenated soybean oil (this is trans fat!), cottonseed oil, monoglycerides, diglycerides, and hydrogenated soybean oil (soon to be banned). None of the fats are saturated and stable; they are all highly reactive to heat, generating a hefty load of free radicals into the food.

A Frightening Amount of Sodium

The salt content (salt, sodium phosphates) is quite frightening if you’re salt-sensitive and you can blow up like a balloon with too much sodium intake. The recommended intake of sodium is 2000 mg to 3000 mg per day for those with high blood pressure.  10 Nuggets alone contain nearly 1000 mg of sodium.  Part of the problem is that there’s no potassium in chicken nuggets to balance the sodium.

TBHQ and Dimethlypolysiloxane 

No fast food nugget get’s created without its share of added chemicals. You’ll find dimethylpolysiloxane, tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ); a preservative and anti-foaming agent, respectively.

TBHQ is a petroleum-based preservative that extends shelf life.  According to the Consumer’s Dictionary of Foods Additives, one gram of TBHA can cause nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, and delirium.  And as reported by animal studies, TBHQ has been linked to these health issues including:

  • Liver damage (low doses)
  • Cellular mutation
  • Biochemical changes (low doses)
  • Reproductive effects (high doses)

Dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) is a silicone based ingredient used in cosmetic products and silicone based lubricants. PDMS has also been used as a filler in breast implants although its use has decreased because of safety concerns.

The Wheat Content Alone Can Damage Your Health

Really, it’s a lot easier than you might think to make your own real chicken nuggets at home. For the breading, you can use gluten free flour and coconut shreds that won’t raise blood sugar levels. Why not use it instead of genetically-modified wheat flour or wheat gluten and modified food starch, created from GMO-derived foods? That way you can control the spices you add, not relying on yeast or dextrose used in the food industry to make foods taste better. Or, if you prefer wings, check out my healthy gluten-free buffalo wing recipe.

The wheat flour and gluten can also damage your health according to William Davis, M.D., NY Times bestselling author, Wheat Belly. This cardiologist tracked the development of modern-day wheat and found a complete change in the chromosomes. Ancient wheat had only 14 chromosomes; modern day wheat has 42.

Modern day wheat has been hybridized and now has double the gluten and higher levels of starch.  Over 300 different diseases are linked to gluten intolerance.  Today’s wheat also contains endorphins (appetite stimulators), which are chemicals that give you a ravenous hunger for more and more nuggets!

Chicken nuggets from fast food restaurants aren’t really what I consider “food” nor do they contain very much chicken for that matter. They’re  a fake food that can make you fat, sick and toxic.

Do you make your own chicken tenders at home? Let me know in the comments below. 


  • DeShazo RD, Bigler Steven, Skipworth LB. The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little”. The American Journal of Medicine 2013; 126(11): 1018-1019.
  • McDonald’s Ingredients List 2014:
  • Davis, M.D., William. Wheat Belly. Rodale Press, 2011.
  • Mercola, Joseph. What’s in Fast Food?  What’s in the Non-Chicken Half of the McNugget, 2011.


Josh Axe

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