- The restaurant chain KFC has partnered with the company Beyond Meat to create chicken-free “fried chicken.”
- But fake fried “chicken” may not be much healthier than the real thing.
- Experts say that fried and processed food, even if it’s not meat, can negatively affect your health.
With the growing popularity of meat-free eating, U.S. restaurant chain KFC has partnered with Beyond Meat to test a new plant-based “fried chicken” offering.
Only available as part of an exclusive one-restaurant test that started August 27 in an Atlanta, Georgia, location, customer response will determine if the new item becomes a fixture on KFC menus nationwide.
But as a heavily processed food, is fried, plant-based “meat” actually healthy to eat?
Meat alternatives are becoming an increasingly popular option in supermarkets and restaurants across the United States as people grow more concerned about health and the environmental impact of meat consumption.
According to KFC, the taste is indistinguishable from real chicken.
“KFC Beyond Fried Chicken is so delicious, our customers will find it difficult to tell that it’s plant-based,” said Kevin Hochman, KFC U.S. president and chief concept officer, in a statement. “I think we’ve all heard ‘it tastes like chicken’ – well our customers are going to be amazed and say, ‘it tastes like Kentucky Fried Chicken!’”
But there is controversy regarding whether or not plant-based meat substitutes are healthier than meat sourced from animals.
“While there are many positive benefits to choosing vegan/vegetarian protein choices, like no cholesterol, lower total fat, animal rights issues, and environmental impacts, it’s important to note that plant-sourced proteins don’t provide all the essential amino acids. Plant sourced proteins are not considered complete proteins in the world of nutrition,” Leslie Young, MA, RDN, and professor of nutrition at Purdue University Global School of Health Sciences in West Lafayette, Indiana, told Healthline.
Young pointed out for a balanced diet without meat, vegans or vegetarians need to find multiple types of protein sources to ensure they don’t miss out on key nutrients.
“However, if the consumer seeks this out as their new, sole source of protein or if portions sizes aren’t kept in check, then some nutritional risks may need to be assessed,” Young said.
A recent study
The findings suggested that for every 10 percent increase in the quantity of ultra-processed foods participants ate, their risk of cardiovascular disease rose by 12 percent, with similar increases in risk of heart and cerebrovascular disease.
Beyond Meat products contain a broad range of food additives, including preservatives and a coloring agent, placing them squarely in this category.
Gluten is a plant protein found in wheat and some other grains; it’s made up of two molecules called glutenin and gliadin. With water, these substances form the elastic bond that gives bread and other processed foods a stretchy and spongy consistency.
About 1 percent of the U.S. population lives with celiac disease — an intestinal condition worsened by exposure to wheat gluten.
Another 1 percent of Americans experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), a condition characterized by symptoms triggered by the introduction of gluten-containing foods.
Wheat gluten can cause symptoms in people sensitive to it that include:
- abdominal bloating
- diarrhea, constipation, or smelly bowel movements
- abdominal pain
Gluten may also increase the risk of obesity.
A recent mouse
The Celiac Disease Foundation has a symptoms assessment tool that can help you determine if symptoms you experience mean you have this condition.
The association between fried food consumption and heart disease has been confirmed by numerous
“I wouldn’t consider it healthy, but it may be somewhat less harmful. I’m not sure what kind of oil KFC uses for frying or if it’s the same oil that will be used for the Beyond Chicken, but I would assume that it’s unhealthy oil,” Penner said.
Young also added that breaded chicken means there’s a significant carbohydrate component to the dish.
“Also, people with certain forms of diabetes need to be aware of the carbohydrate content of these meat alternative products. Most people associate fried meats as having little to no carbohydrates,” Young added.
In addition to the carbohydrate, deep fried means lots of oil. KFC switched to canola oil for frying some years back in an effort to remove trans fats from their food. However, the
KFC has partnered with Beyond Meat to test a new plant-based, fried chicken in one location in Atlanta, Georgia.
Of the listed ingredients in Beyond Meat chicken, there may be concerns for the health conscious. Wheat gluten in the faux chicken product and it still breaded and deep fried, which is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Editors Note: An earlier version of this story reported that the Beyond Meat item at KFC contained soy and canola oil. The product does not contain soy and although it is fried in canola oil, it does not contain that ingredient. Healthline regrets the error.