If you think eating fish–with its purported brain-boosting benefits–is healthy regardless of how it’s made, think again! Long John Silver’s “Big Catch” has been deemed the most unhealthy meal in America, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy organization. The meal, which consists of fried “wild-caught whitefish” and a choice of two side-dishes, costs only $4.99–but the cost to your health could make it not worth the savings.
Researchers at CSPI found that the assortment of fried fish paired with fried onion rings and hushpuppies (balls of fried corn starch) adds up to 19 grams of saturated fat, almost 37 grams of sodium, and a whopping 33 grams of trans fat – which is an ingredient considered so harmful to heart health that New York City banned it in 2006. In comparison, approximately the same amount of raw whitefish has less than a gram of saturated fat, less than a gram of sodium, and no trans fat.
The American Heart Association recommends that people limit trans fat consumption to less than 1 percent of total daily calories. For example, an average 31- to 50-year-old female needs 2,000 calories a day, which would mean her trans-fat intake should be less than 2 grams. After eating an entire “Big Catch” meal, she would have ingested more than two weeks worth of trans fat in one sitting.
CSPI also claims that the fast food chain exaggerates the amount of actual fish in the meal and understates the quantity of trans fat and sodium in the side-order for the Big Catch meal: after separating the bread from the meat, their researchers found an average of only about four and a half ounces of actual fish and almost three ounces of batter. “It turns out that when Long John Silver’s says 7 to 8 ounces of 100 percent haddock, it’s more like 60 percent haddock, and 40 percent batter and grease,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a press release. “Nutrition aside, that’s just plain piracy.” In response, Long John Silver’s said in a press release: “We stand behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data.”