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Is Subway Real Food?

 

Subway is the single largest chain restaurant in the world. That means you’ve probably eaten there at some point in your lifetime and if you are like me could possibly have 10 of these restaurants within a 1 mile radius of your house. But is eating at America’s favorite fast food chain really eating real food?

food babe - me and subway

Subway would certainly like you to think so. With their slogan “Eat Fresh,” marketing with avocados and a guy who lost hundreds of pounds eating their famous sub sandwiches, it’s easy to get duped.
You may also feel tricked when you see a little heart logo, indicating a menu item at Subway is “heart healthy.” Just last week it was announced that the American Heart Association (AHA) has endorsed several menu items at Subway and added the heart logo to indicate which ones.

At every Subway on the “sneeze guard” glass they display one version of their nutritional information – the infamous “6 grams of fat or less” menu. This menu includes calories, fat grams, and that new little heart logo, but doesn’t display anything about the ingredients. Doubting that Subway or the AHA would actually ever create a real food information guide for you, I decided it was time to do this myself. Below are the “6 grams or less” menu items and critical real food information you should know about each choice.

food babe - subway sandwich

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Subway definitely keeps it fresh and I figured out how. Every single one of their items on the “6 grams or less” menu has preservatives to keep it …well…fresh! Sure Subway makes your meal right in front of you, but what is really happening behind the scenes? Boxes of already cut up and prepackaged processed foods and chemical additives are being shipped from Big Food industry factories to each location.
  • The 9 grain wheat bread might look and smell freshly baked but it contains close to 50 ingredients including refined flours, dough conditioners, hidden MSG, refined sugars, etc. Could bread this processed ever be real food? Certainly not, when it includes a chemical ingredient called azodicarbonamide, which is banned as a food additive in the U.K., Europe, and Australia, and if you get caught using it in Singapore you can get up to 15 years in prison and be fined $450,000. Azodicarbonamide is more commonly used in the production of foamed plastics, however, it is allowed in the United States as a food additive, a flour bleaching agent, and a dough conditioner that improves elasticity of bread. The U.K. has recognized this ingredient as a potential cause of asthma if inhaled, and advises against its use in people who have sensitivity to food dye allergies and other common allergies in food, because azodicarbonamide can exacerbate the symptoms. Let’s not forget it only takes 4 or 5 simple ingredients to make REAL whole-wheat bread including flour, yeast, salt, water, and maybe honey.

food babe subway sandwich meat

  • Three sandwiches on this menu, along with several other menu items not listed, are comprised of processed meats and filled with nitrates and forms of MSG. The consumption of nitrates need to be taken very seriously. Nitrates are frequently converted into nitrosamines, which have been proven to increase the risk of disease dramatically. The latest research from World Cancer Research Fund declared that “processed meat is too dangerous for human consumption.” Studies have shown it may only take 1.8 ounces of processed meat (about half of what is in a typical 6 inch sub) daily to increase the likelihood of cancer by 50%, heart disease by 42% and diabetes by 19%. I still know people who eat Subway for lunch everyday, but I’m glad I don’t know anyone on the actual Subway Diet. Sheesh. I can’t imagine what their percentage would be, could you?
  • Can you believe the American Heart Association is now putting their seal of approval behind these processed meat based Subway menu items? WOW. After all these studies that show an increase in heart disease? Is this a joke? Even the processed turkey meat that seems harmless because it doesn’t contain nitrates is full of preservatives, chemical flavorings, and carrageenan. I wrote about carrageenan last month after the Cornucopia Institute revealed a study that once the food grade version of carrageenan is ingested it turns into a carcinogen in your digestive system.

food babe - subway salad

  • Preservatives and even artificial colors are added to many of their “fresh” vegetable offerings – like the banana peppers and pickles. The ingredients for the black olives unveiled a new additive I learned about, “ferrous gluconate,” which is an iron based preservative that helps keep olives black.
  • While the “6 grams or less” menu says the totals don’t include cheese or salad dressings, it is important to know that some of the cheeses offered at subway also have artificial colors, preservatives, and even cellulose that’s made from wood pulp.
  • Two of the healthiest sounding salad dressings were actually the worst based on my analysis. Fat free honey mustard and the red vinaigrette both have corn syrup, artificial colors, preservatives, and other chemical additives.

To top it off, the majority of foods at Subway have been conventionally sourced and probably include pesticides, antibiotics, and/or growth hormones. In my research, I didn’t find one single organic ingredient or menu item available at over 36,000 stores. Even the lemon juice comes in a pre-packaged squirt pack filled with preservatives. Because of this I haven’t consciously ever considered going to a Subway in the last 7 years.

Last weekend, I broke this streak and went into a Subway in search of real food. I have to admit the thought of going into a Subway and ordering off the menu was a little bit daunting, but I decided this was the best way to get the answers to my questions, like whether or not their avocado was really fresh or not. Could it be possible for me to order something and actually take a bite without squirming? Going against my “vote with your dollars” philosophy and purchasing something from the “bad guys” went against every bone in my body. But I did it.

Watch it all unfold in the video below. Everything at Subway may not be “fresh” but if you are ever stuck on a deserted island and this was the only place you could eat… now you know what to order.

Special thanks to Nicole Galuski for filming

P.S. You can check out my favorite “fast food” sandwich I am eating now and how to get it here.

Update 6/2015: Subway announced they will remove all artificial food ingredients and preservatives from their food by 2017.

Update 4/2014: Subway has removed azodicarbonamide from their bread. 

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232 responses to “Is Subway Real Food?

  1. Since my wife and I always split a sub sandwich regardless of it’s source, we would buy the market sub and split it. Now that we know there are gmo’s hidden in Subway and probably Quizno’s. since I’m diabetic I would probably eat only half the over sized bread from the market. .

  2. Warning: This is a true disgusting story. A few years back, I was doing some decorative painting at a friend’s house. She treated my son and I to Subway sandwiches afterwards. Unbeknown to me, my son put his leftover uneaten sandwich into my paint supply bag. Said bag was stored in a closet for a few months before I needed something from it. As I was rummaging through the bag, I came across the half sandwich still wrapped in it’s Subway wrap. My first thought was that “OMG, I could have gotten bugs in my closet” Second thought was “This thing must be so green and moldy and disgusting!” I threw the sandwich into the trash and the wrapping fell away to expose the sandwich. What I saw was more horrifying than the above 2 scenarios!! What was before me was a PERFECT sandwich. Almost AS PERFECT as the day we purchased almost 4 months ago. About the only difference I could see what that the colors of the tomatoes and lettuce were slightly faded. There was no mold, no rot, no breakdown of any kind. Seriously, it was hard as a rock, but other than that it looked just like it did on the day of purchase. It was a fossilized version of it’s former self! Only a non-food food would react like this. Naturally, I’ve never eaten there again. But, strangely, when I retell this story (I’m a hairdresser so my audience is vast lol) people’s reactions shock me. THey are completely grossed out – and then they say some version of “that is sooo gross! But, I love Subway so I’m still going to eat it. It’s one of the healthier choices.” Huh????????

    1. That does take the cake. I believe the same could be said of McDonalds. A lady made a project out of a happy meal by photographing it over a period of 6 months. And the same thing happened. It never rotted. Which means our bodies most likely wont be able to break it down properly..very disturbing.

  3. The American (and Canadian) heart associations are jokes! They have their labels on fruit juice, gummy candies, processed cheese, and sugary instant oatmeal and other refined goods. Honestly many North Americans get confused by this and don’t quite understand…Not Good at all.

  4. What makes me laugh is that people actually think that the FDA is there to protect them. It is not, it is there to protect profits, the profits the food industry makes from selling you tainted food.

    Remember this the next time you go shopping for food.

  5. Some sales guy who.waa trying to sell my brother fitness equipment said it best, “you never see Jared without his shirt off.” Eating Subway does not a healthy body make

  6. THANKS for exposing this crap!!!

    Whenever I used to go into a Subway, I always noticed a very peculiar odor. I felt weird about it but would go ahead and order my tuna sub. But now I am thinking the toxic smell is because of the artificial/junk in the food.

  7. i bought sandwich from subway and i saw plastic in the container they stored their meatballs. looks yuck coz they promoting the healthy food but storing hot food in the plastic is not good.

  8. Hello
    I predict that their prossessed food products contain the heavily used food additive: microbial transglutaminase (mTg). the mTg is the glue of proteins used in many processed food industries. Recently, when cross linking gliadins, it was shown to be immunogenic in celiac disease. it is a potential driver of autoimmunity. Please, see several scientific reference, below.

    Lerner A, Matthias T. Possible association between celiac disease and bacterial transglutaminase in food processing: a hypothesis. Nutrition Reviews. 2015;73:544-552.

    Matthias T, Jeremias P, Neidhöfer S, Lerner A. The industrial food additive microbial transglutaminase, mimics the tissue transglutaminase and is immunogenic in celiac disease patients. Autoimmune Reviews, 2016;15:1111-1119.

    Lerner A, Matthias T. Microbial Transglutaminase is Beneficial to Food Industries but a Caveat to Public Health. Medcine One. 2019;4:e190001.

    it is time that the food safety regulatory authority will investigate the mTg food safety and check the enzyme activity in the supermarket shelves’ processed food products

  9. Hello
    I predict that their processed food products contain the heavily used food additive: microbial transglutaminase (mTg). the mTg is the glue of proteins used in many processed food industries. Recently, when cross linking gliadins, it was shown to be immunogenic in celiac disease. it is a potential driver of autoimmunity. Please, see several scientific reference, below.

    Lerner A, Matthias T. Possible association between celiac disease and bacterial transglutaminase in food processing: a hypothesis. Nutrition Reviews. 2015;73:544-552.

    Matthias T, Jeremias P, Neidhöfer S, Lerner A. The industrial food additive microbial transglutaminase, mimics the tissue transglutaminase and is immunogenic in celiac disease patients. Autoimmune Reviews, 2016;15:1111-1119.

    Lerner A, Matthias T. Microbial Transglutaminase is Beneficial to Food Industries but a Caveat to Public Health. Medcine One. 2019;4:e190001.

    it is time that the food safety regulatory authority will investigate the mTg food safety and check the enzyme activity in the supermarket shelves’ processed food products

  10. I noticed at the end of this piece that it is OLD as of now (2/19): an update dated 4/14 shows that it’s about 5 years old, possibly more. The updates also say that the two most problematic items discussed, azodicarbonamide and preservatives, have reportedly been removed by now. What say you? Please update this soon as my wife and I don’t really want to spend a lot of time arguing the merits and demerits of Subways.

  11. I treat subway as what it is: fast food! It doesn’t matter where you go to. If you eat it once in a blue moon as I do, I believe Subway is fine. It comes to when you live on it that it becomes a problem. Heck. I’m eating subway right now while watching this. While disgusting that’s what happens, it won’t detour me in the future. No matter how much convincing I do to myself.

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