13 Of The Unhealthiest Items At KFC

KFC bucket with food in background
KFC bucket with food in background - Pjohnson1/Getty Images

In today's busy life, many of us often find ourselves eating at KFC for a quick and easy meal. Enjoying its food once in a while can be a nice treat, but some items on the menu might not be the best choice to eat regularly, for those who are health-conscious. These items not only have abundant calories and other ingredients that can cause health issues when consumed in excess, but many items lack fiber, which is needed to support good digestion.

Looking closer, a clear pattern shows up — the significant presence of sodium and fats. These can quickly turn your meal into something that exceeds the daily recommended intake limits, especially when paired with other high-calorie side dishes. Another point to note is the frequent use of MSG. While this food additive may not entirely deserve its bad reputation, per Healthline, its health effects are still debated. To top it all off, ingredients like gluten and dairy in various dishes mean that some customers need to be careful when choosing what to eat, to avoid any potential allergic reactions.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of The Best Fried Chicken Chains

KFC Nashville Hot Spicy Crispy Chicken Breast

Nashville Hot Spicy Crispy Chicken Breast
Nashville Hot Spicy Crispy Chicken Breast - KFC

KFC's Nashville Hot Spicy Crispy Chicken Breast, containing 540 calories per serving, provides over a quarter of the FDA's general daily caloric intake guideline, generally given as 2,000 calories — a substantial amount. While a simple indulgence as a single meal, integrating it into a regular diet could elevate the risk of obesity. Adding to the concern is the presence of 7 grams of saturated fat, which takes up a significant portion of the 20-gram daily limit specified by FDA guidelines. Moreover, the dish contains 100 milligrams of cholesterol, which can impact heart health in excessive amounts, so it's wise to eat this item in moderation.

Making matters worse, this item contains 1,390 milligrams of sodium, accounting for 58% of the daily recommended value. High intake of sodium can raise blood pressure and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The inclusion of preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate might also be unsettling for those preferring less processed food. According to Healthline, potassium sorbate can potentially be contaminated with heavy metals during production, while sodium benzoate can put stress on your liver and trigger your body's inflammation responses, per a 2016 study in the journal Physiology International, making it a risk factor in developing some chronic diseases.

KFC Extra Crispy Chicken Breast

Extra Crispy Chicken Breast serving
Extra Crispy Chicken Breast serving - KFC

Looking closely at KFC's Extra Crispy Chicken Breast, we find that one serving contains 530 calories, a significant portion of the daily recommended caloric intake for most people. It also carries 35 grams of fat, of which 6 grams are saturated fat. According to MedlinePlus, high consumption of saturated fats can elevate levels of blood LDL cholesterol. This is the "bad" kind of cholesterol, accumulating in your blood vessels and causing an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases — and this is in addition to the 105 milligrams of cholesterol this menu item already contains. This chicken breast also contains a substantial amount of sodium at 1,150 milligrams, or half of the recommended daily intake value, all from just one item.

Additionally, it's worth mentioning that it contains MSG, which has been the subject of health debates for potentially interfering with appetite regulation due to its flavor-enhancing properties. It also contains other chemical preservatives like sodium phosphate and citric acid to enhance shelf stability. This might not be suitable for those who are aiming for a diet centered on minimally processed food items. According to a 2012 study in the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, ingesting a large amount of sodium phosphate by regularly eating fast food may cause damage to the cardiovascular system. This can be a particular concern for those with chronic kidney disease, who typically need a diet low in phosphates.

KFC Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie promo image
Chicken Pot Pie promo image - KFC

KFC's Chicken Pot Pie is loved for its hearty and comforting blend of creamy filling and crisp crust. However, it's a heavy meal, packing a hefty 720 calories per serving. That's the highest of any regular menu item, making this one not to eat too regularly without plenty of physical activity to balance it. It also contains a concerning amount of fat — 41 grams, which includes 25 grams of saturated fat, exceeding the daily recommended intake by a significant 112% and increasing levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood. Coupled with its high levels of sodium, at 1,750 milligrams (76% of the daily value), this item isn't great for heart health.

People have also voiced concerns regarding the pot pie's saltiness. One Reddit user commented, "How thirsty were you afterwards? [...] they were super salty back in the day." Another raised concerns about the perceived low-quality ingredients, suggesting that a significant amount of salt might be used to mask the taste of preservatives and additives. It's certainly true that, with its lengthy ingredient list, this pot pie is heavily processed food. It notably includes additives like MSG and disodium guanylate, which are often combined to create an umami-rich flavor profile — a little trick to make food seem much tastier than it otherwise would. Together with disodium inosinate, per Allergy Link, this forms a trio of additives that can potentially incur side effects including extreme mouth dryness, migraine headaches, heart palpitations, and mental confusion.

KFC Family Potato Salad

Bowl of KFC potato salad
Bowl of KFC potato salad - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Don't be fooled by the "salad" in the name. KFC's Family Potato Salad is not as healthy as it may sound, especially for those who are not in the habit of scrutinizing nutritional facts. It's the side dish with the highest calorie count across all available sizes at 1,200 calories per serving. This makes it easy to give your entire family a very heavy meal without realizing. Moreover, a single serving of this potato salad is laden with 98 grams of fat, surpassing the daily recommended value by 151% — an alarming figure, particularly considering the 16 grams of saturated fats this includes.

There's a little silver lining: The potato salad does contain a fair 3 grams of fiber, fulfilling 7-12% of the recommended daily intake while helping you feel full, so you're less likely to overeat. KFC doesn't give a detailed ingredient list for this item though, making it hard to fully judge the health implications by concealing any additional additives or preservatives.

KFC Classic Chicken Sandwich

Classic Chicken Sandwich promo image
Classic Chicken Sandwich promo image - KFC

Arriving at KFC's Classic Chicken Sandwich, it's clear that this is not the healthiest chicken sandwich ever. First off, it packs in 650 calories and 35 grams of fat. That makes up a substantial amount of the Mayo Clinic's fat intake guideline of around 44-78 grams a day. While 25-30 grams of fiber per day can help to reduce cholesterol levels, the Classic Chicken Sandwich falls short in providing enough fiber to help with this, offering only a meager 1 gram, or 4% of the recommended daily value.

The bread and chicken both contain MSG, known to cause discomfort in some individuals after consumption. It also contains additives such as polysorbate 80, calcium disodium EDTA, monocalcium phosphate, and calcium sulfate to preserve freshness and enhance flavor and texture — though this may deter some people seeking a more "real" sandwich. While these additives are generally regarded as safe, some people may still have intolerances to them, including indigestion, bloating, or other gastrointestinal discomfort. In a nutshell, despite its impressive 34 grams of protein, this sandwich is still heavily processed, and might not sit well with those looking to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

KFC Crispy Twister

Crispy Twister on wooden board
Crispy Twister on wooden board - KFC

KFC's Crispy Twister is an innocent-looking tortilla wrap that packs a punch in both flavor and nutrition, albeit with a few caveats. Its 630 calories per serving is on the higher side and may keep you fueled for quite some time. The Twister contains a high amount of fat — 34 grams, to be precise, with 7 grams being saturated fats. To enjoy this dish while minimizing health impacts, maybe it's best to carefully plan your meals. On a rather positive note, it boasts 28 grams of protein which, according to Healthline, can aid in cell regeneration and assist with muscle recovery after a strenuous workout.

As well as seasoning, the chicken in the Twister is also processed with various phosphates, namely sodium phosphate, potassium phosphate, calcium phosphate, and disodium phosphate. While these compounds are used as flavor enhancers, and to keep the chicken juicy, they raise pertinent questions regarding the safety and quality of the chicken. According to Garmin, artificial phosphates found in fast foods can burden the kidneys, reduce bone calcium, and increase the risk of heart attack. Unfortunately, too much phosphate in the blood can also cause muscle loss, making this item less appealing as a post-workout meal.

The crispy chicken inside the wrap is breaded with a mix that contains MSG which, per the Renaissance Recovery Center, can potentially foster a form of addiction. If that doesn't deter you, perhaps the 1,260 milligrams of sodium (about 55% of the recommended daily intake) will.

KFC Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Spicy Chicken Sandwich promo image
Spicy Chicken Sandwich promo image - KFC

KFC's Spicy Chicken Sandwich is slightly easier on calories compared to the classic version, packing 620 calories per serving instead of 650. Sadly, it isn't quite that simple. With a whopping 2,140 milligrams of sodium, this menu item is inching towards the daily limit — eat almost anything beyond this meal and you're in a surplus, which is bad news for your heart health. Moreover, its 7 grams of saturated fat is also higher than the classic version and should not be taken lightly. The double breading used in the preparation of the chicken likely contributes to these higher values.

The seasoning on the chicken is also worth paying attention to. It includes maltodextrin which, per Medical News Today, has a higher glycemic index than table sugar, potentially causing a blood sugar spike. Unsurprisingly, MSG also features on the list of ingredients, becoming a common recurring theme on KFC's menu. Also among the list of ingredients is polysorbate 80. Used as an emulsifier in foods, a study in the journal Microbiome notes that ingredients like this can have an adverse effect on gut bacteria, potentially causing intestinal inflammation.

KFC Famous Bowl

Famous Bowl with potatoes, chicken, and corn
Famous Bowl with potatoes, chicken, and corn - KFC

KFC's Famous Bowl features layers of mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, and sweet corn, topped with home-style gravy and a mix of shredded cheeses. One thing that really stands out in this menu item is the sodium, at a staggering 2,160 milligrams — the highest of any of KFC's regular menu items, and roughly 94% of the recommended daily limit in a single meal. Excessive sodium is something to try and avoid in your diet. It can escalate blood pressure levels, which can cause other cardiovascular complications.

KFC's gravy and mashed potatoes contain numerous additives, including whey byproducts, salts, and undisclosed natural flavors. MSG is also included in the chicken nuggets. While typically considered safe, MSG may cause sensitive reactions in some people, manifesting as headaches or fatigue.

The Famous Bowl does also include crunchy sweet corn kernels that seem to contribute to its low 4 grams of dietary fiber. On the other hand, the cheese blend that adds creaminess is treated with sorbic acid and an unspecified anti-caking agent. Often used as a preservative, sorbic acid is generally safe in the quantities used in food. It's worth knowing, though, that it can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Thankfully, per Healthline, this is quite rare and usually causes nothing more than some light skin itching.

KFC Original Recipe Chicken Breast

Original Recipe Chicken promo image
Original Recipe Chicken promo image

KFC's Original Recipe Chicken Breast is steeped in tradition, being a creation of the brand's founder, Colonel Sanders. It's the richest source of protein on KFC's regular menu, offering 39 grams per serving. This can be seen as beneficial, particularly for those seeking to augment their protein intake for exercise and workout routines. Those planning to start a high-protein diet should always be careful, though, as this can exacerbate any pre-existing kidney conditions.

The coating of the Original Recipe Chicken Breast prominently features wheat flour, a common ingredient used to achieve that signature crispy texture. This particular component, however, might pose a significant drawback for a growing segment of the population with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Ingesting gluten can trigger a range of adverse reactions in these individuals, from digestive issues to anxiety, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Additionally, the dish contains a considerable amount of sodium, at 1,190 milligrams per serving, together with 21 grams of total fat, both far higher than any of the other Original Recipe chicken items, like drumsticks or thighs. While this contributes to its deliciously salty flavor profile, it's best to order this one in moderation.

KFC Secret Recipe Fries

Portion of KFC Secret Recipe Fries
Portion of KFC Secret Recipe Fries - KFC

Who doesn't pair their main dish with a side of fries? Particularly when it comes to KFC's Secret Recipe Fries, which claim to be seasoned with the same herbs and spices found in their renowned chicken. These fries may not seem like much, but remember, this is just a side dish and the calories can pile up fast with the addition of a main course. Most concerning is the sodium level, at 1,100 milligrams (almost 50% of the daily value) — the highest of any side dish, and more than many of the main menu items.

With a total carbohydrate content of 41 grams per serving, this item is already quite filling. Perhaps it's best not to upsize or order any extra of these, adding even more to your intake. Consuming carbohydrates in high quantities can burden your body with a high metabolic load, potentially escalating blood sugar levels and increasing the risk of heart complications.

KFC Extra Crispy Tenders

Large box of Extra Crispy Tenders
Large box of Extra Crispy Tenders - KFC

The ingredient list of KFC's Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders provides a vivid picture of the numerous components that come together to craft this deep-fried delicacy. Up to 25% of this menu item is not actually chicken, but a mixture of water and seasoning that includes elements like modified potato starch and various phosphates. Care should be taken to moderate phosphate consumption, as this can cause the hardening of the arteries in your heart and potentially cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The breaded exterior contains a variety of ingredients including wheat flour, corn starch, and sugar, contributing to the item's carbohydrate content which stands at 8 grams per piece.

It's important to keep in mind when ordering, that a single piece contains 320 milligrams of sodium, constituting 13% of the daily value. When you consider that one order contains eight pieces, this amount can exceed the daily recommended intake, taxing your cardiovascular system. The use of canola oil, while considered a healthier choice due to its lower saturated fat content, contributes to the 7 grams of fat per piece (11% of the daily value), because the food absorbs some of the oil it's deep-fried in.

KFC Buffalo Ranch Dipping Sauce

Bowl of Buffalo Ranch Dipping Sauce
Bowl of Buffalo Ranch Dipping Sauce - KFC

When you're thinking of adding some zest to your deep-fried chicken nuggets, the KFC Buffalo Ranch Dipping Sauce might catch your eye as a dipping option. It's creamy and zesty, lending a slight fiery kick thanks to a blend of hot sauce, buttermilk, and aged cayenne peppers, but also benefitting from added MSG. Additionally, it contains calcium disodium EDTA, an additive used to maintain an inviting color in foods and prevent it from spoiling. In large amounts, this compound can potentially strain the kidneys, but it's usually considered safe in the small amounts used in food. Maybe don't order too much extra though, just to be certain.

The real issue with the Buffalo Ranch sauce is the same as most other KFC menu items, with a single 25-gram serving adding an additional 120 calories to your meal. This includes 13 grams of fat, which is an extra 20% of your daily recommended value. Moreover, it contains 290 milligrams of sodium, which is about 12% of your daily limit. With this in mind, maybe it's best to pass on the sauce and spare yourself the unnecessary sodium and calories. Needless to say, with buttermilk as an ingredient, those with dairy allergies may also want to avoid this menu item.

KFC Chocolate Chip Cake

Slice of KFC Chocolate Chip Cake
Slice of KFC Chocolate Chip Cake - KFC

Catering to those with a sweet tooth, KFC offers the Chocolate Chip Cake as a dessert to end your meal. As you may expect from a dessert, this can add substantially to the total calorie count. A 76-gram slice contains 300 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar. While a nice indulgence on occasion, the American Heart Association recommends average adults limit sugar intake between 25 to 36 grams per day to avoid type 2 diabetes and heart diseases, and a single piece of this cake will contribute significantly to that.

The ingredient list shows a range of artificial flavors, colors, and additives, which can compound these effects. For instance, interesterified soybean oil, a contemporary substitute for trans fats, has also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This association is attributed to its capacity to increase blood glucose levels, impairing the body's glucose tolerance and hampering the insulin response to it, as highlighted in a 2018 study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Perhaps it's better to skip dessert.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.