Burger King fries are considered one of the unhealthiest fast food menu items. With high levels of fat, calories, and sodium, eating BK fries regularly can contribute to weight gain and associated health risks. But just how bad are they for you?
Let’s start by looking at the basic nutrition facts for a medium order of Burger King fries:
As you can see, a medium order packs 19 grams of fat and 350 calories. That’s nearly half of the recommended daily value for fat and calories in just one snack.
High in Unhealthy Fats
The biggest concern with BK fries is the high amount of unhealthy fats. The 19 grams of fat consists mostly of saturated and trans fats, the kinds that raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
Eating foods high in saturated and trans fats causes fat to build up in your arteries, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 13 grams per day and trans fat to less than 1 gram a day for heart health.
With 4 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat in a medium fry, you’re eating nearly a third of your daily limit of bad fats in one serving.
Often Fried in Unhealthy Oils
What makes the fries so high in bad fats? They’re fried in unhealthy oils.
While Burger King has phased out trans fats, they still fry fries in oils high in saturated fat like palm, coconut, or soybean oil. Heating these oils to high temperatures during frying causes the oils to become even more saturated.
For comparison, fries fried in heart healthier oils like avocado, olive, or canola oil would have a better fat profile. But of course, the taste and cost make those unlikely choices for fast food chains.
Loaded With Sodium
In addition to fat, sodium is sky-high in BK fries. There are 270 milligrams of sodium in a medium serving. That’s over 10% of your daily recommended limit.
Eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, increasing strain on your heart and blood vessels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
The sodium in Burger King fries comes from both the oil and the heavy salt coating. Reducing sodium requires cooking fries in unsalted oil and using less salt.
No Nutritional Value
Beyond being high in fat and sodium, Burger King fries lack any redeeming nutritional value:
- No fiber – Only 3 grams per serving
- No protein – Only 5 grams per serving
- No healthy fats
- No vitamins or minerals
They provide empty calories and fat without any benefits. The cooking process also destroys any nutrients found in the original potatoes.
Portion Sizes Add Up
The values above are for a standard medium order of fries. But the typical serving at Burger King is often much larger.
Burger King’s small fry is 117g, medium is 184g, and large is 245g. By comparison, McDonald’s small fry is 73g and medium is 117g. The larger sizes mean more calories and fat in one serving.
Plus, most people don’t just eat a portion of fries on their own. They usually get fries along with a burger, nuggets, or other items as part of a full fast food meal.
When combined with sugary soda, burgers, and other sides, a single fast food meal can contain over 1,000 calories from largely unhealthy sources.
Easy to Overeat
The addictive taste of salty, greasy fries also makes them easy to overeat. It’s common to finish a large serving of fries even when you’re already full. A bigger portion means it’s that much easier to overdo it on calories, fat, and sodium in one sitting.
Obesity and Weight Gain
Eating high-calorie, high-fat foods like Burger King fries on a regular basis can lead to weight gain over time. Fries don’t satisfy hunger very well, so you end up eating a lot of calories on top of your other meals.
Fast food fries in particular are associated with excess calorie intake because they are so convenient and tasty. You have to resist the urge to supersize your fries or get them with every meal.
Obesity is tied to health problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. The more weight you gain from eating foods like fries, the higher your risk of chronic diseases.
Harder to Burn Off Calories
Not only do Burger King fries pack a lot of extra calories, but your body doesn’t burn those calories efficiently. Fat has over twice the calories per gram compared to carbs or protein.
Your body is also less efficient at using fats for energy during physical activity. So you can’t just burn off the 350 calories from fries during your workout.
Other Health Risks
Beyond weight gain, eating a lot of fried foods like fries may increase your risk for other health problems as well.
Frying starchy foods at high temperatures can produce cancer-causing compounds called acrylamides. Studies show acrylamide intake is linked to higher risk of certain cancers.
As mentioned earlier, the saturated and trans fats in Burger King fries can raise bad LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. High cholesterol increases plaque buildup in arteries, raising heart disease risk.
Frequent fried food intake is associated with Type 2 diabetes risk. The combination of high calories, fat, and carbs can disrupt normal blood sugar regulation over time.
Chronic inflammation contributes to many diseases. Some studies show fried food can trigger inflammatory responses in the body, though more research is still needed.
Healthier Frying Methods
So are all fries equally bad? Not exactly. The way fries are prepared makes a big difference in their nutrition profile. Here are some healthier frying methods:
|Uses no oil, lower in fat and calories
|Uses 70-80% less oil than deep frying
|Adds nice flavor without oil or frying
|Steamed then Pan Fried
|Less oil absorption than deep frying
|Olive, avocado, coconut, peanut oils have better fat profile
While baking, air frying, or pan frying with healthy oils are your best bets, deep frying in unhealthy oils should be limited.
Alternatives to Burger King Fries
What are some better options than Burger King fries if you’re craving something hot, crispy, and salty?
Sweet Potato Fries
Swap regular potatoes for sweet potatoes. They have more fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Bake or air fry them instead of deep frying.
Fries made from carrots, zucchini, parsnips, or beets add color and nutrients. Roast them in the oven with a small amount of olive oil.
Baked Potato Wedges
Cut potatoes into wedges, season with spices, and bake. Much lower in fat and calories than deep fried.
Bite-sized baked cauliflower florets crisp up nicely with just a mist of cooking spray. Get the crunch without the grease.
Kale chips are tasty replacement for greasy potato chips. Toss torn kale leaves with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake.
Should You Avoid BK Fries Altogether?
Are Burger King fries so bad you should avoid them completely if you want to be healthy?
In moderation, they can be part of an overall balanced diet. Having a small fries as an occasional treat likely won’t do too much damage.
But there are healthier fast food options like salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, plain baked potatoes, etc. Limiting your burger and fry binges will pay off over the long term.
The Bottom Line
Here are some key takeaways on how unhealthy Burger King fries are:
- High in calories, fat, sodium – 350 calories, 19g fat, 270mg sodium per medium serving
- Loaded with bad fats from frying oils – saturated and trans fats
- No fiber, vitamins, or other nutrients
- Large serving sizes easy to overeat
- Regular intake linked to obesity and disease risk
- Healthier to bake, air fry, or pan fry using better oils
Burger King fries should be an occasional indulgence, not a daily habit. Following a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods and home-cooked meals is your best bet for long-term health.
Burger King fries are high in fat, sodium, and calories without much nutritional benefit. Frequent consumption is associated with weight gain and higher risk for chronic disease.
Still, an order of fries now and then won’t doom your diet. Just balance it out with healthier choices for your other meals. Limit portion sizes, skip the salt, and bake or air fry potatoes at home for a better nutrition profile.
At the end of the day, moderation and variety are key to healthy eating. Burger King fries can be part of that equation, just don’t make them an everyday habit.