True Food Kitchen – An Inflammatory Nightmare

The ever expanding True Food Kitchen (TFK) purports to be “a restaurant inspired by the philosophy that food should make you feel better, not worse.” The TFK corporation is located in Phoenix, Arizona and has about 30 locations across America, all of which are owned by the corporation and are not franchised. According to Forbes, this a rapidly growing chain and its revenue grew 46% in 2017 from the previous year (Stern, 2019). The menu at TFK offers dishes such as kale guacamole, edamame dumplings, Mediterranean quinoa, turkey burgers, and grass-fed burgers. Entrées include a poke bowl, grilled salmon and grilled fish tacos, and charred cauliflower and creamy tomato soup. To some who bobble their heads to the corporate marketing scheme, this all sounds healthy. But let’s have a look beyond the marketing hype, and delve into the nutritional value of some of the TFK menu items.

Say you start your meal with a bowl of Cream Tomato Soup. That bowl of soup will contain 18 grams of fat, 9 of which are saturated fats, and you’ll ingest 1500 mg of sodium. The recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2,300 mg. That one bowl is 65% of your daily allowance of sodium. Now if you order the chicken sausage pizza to go along with that soup, you’ll ingest 32 grams of fat, 12 of which are saturated, and 1610 mg of sodium. That just brought the amount of sodium in your meal to a total of 3,110 mg, well beyond the recommended allowance. You’ve also just ingested 50 grams of fat, of which 21 grams are saturated. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.  Eating all this fat, including too much saturated fat, will clog your arteries and induce vascular inflammation. The nutritional chart lists coconut as one of the ingredients in the soup, such that some unknown quantity of medium chain triglycerides  (MCTs) will also be present in the soup. All of these fats, including MCTs (Haghikia et al, 2015) can have both acute as well as chronic effects on host inflammatory responses in both the innate and adaptive immune systems (Maguire 2020).  Likewise, the intake of sodium increases inflammation in the innate and adapative immune systems, and induces dysbiosis in the gut (Maguire, 2020).

Maybe you can have the vegetable crudites instead of the soup. If so, you’ve just ingested 63 grams of fat, 7 of which are saturated, and 1500 mg of sodium. This is no better than the soup, and maybe worse given the 63 grams of fat, about twice as much as in the soup. If you’ve eaten the soup and the pizza, 95 grams of fat was consumed in one meal. Eating that one meal has just exceeded the amount of fat one should eat in the entire day.

Well, you say, this meal is better than going to Burger King for a Whooper and fries. Let’s see: a Whopper has 40 grams of fat, 12 of which are saturated, and 980 mg of sodium. The fries have 10 grams of fat, 1.5 of which are saturated, and 330 mg of sodium. So the Burger King meal of a Whopper and Fries has 50 grams of fat, 13.5 of which are saturated, and 1,330 mg of sodium. The TFK meal of vegetable crudites and pizza has 95 grams of fat, 19 of which are saturated, and 3,110 mg of sodium. Thus, the TFK meal has 45 more grams of fat, 5.5 more grams of saturated fat, and 1,780 mg more of sodium than does the Burger King meal.

The point here is that neither of these meals is healthy, and the meal from Burger King is, in some ways, healthier than the meal from True Food Kitchen, a purported “health-driven seasonal restaurant.” TFK is the penultimate marketing scheme brought to you by a corporation that delivers empty words and poor nutrition, with a measure of inflammation, dysbiosis, and clogged arteries full of foamy macrophages .


Haghikia A et al (2015) Dietary Fatty Acids Directly Impact Central Nervous System Autoimmunity via the Small Intestine. Immunity 43: 817-829.

Maguire G (2020) Thinking And Eating For Two: The Science of Using Systems 1 and 2 Thinking to Nourish Self and Symbionts. Berkeley Free Speech Press, Berkeley, CA.

Stern G (2019) True Food Kitchen: A Growing Restaurant Chain On A Mission. Forbes, Jan. 25, 2019.


Published by Dr. Greg Maguire, Ph.D.

Dr. Maguire, a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, is a scientist, innovator, teacher, healthcare professional. He has over 100 publications and numerous patents. His book, "Adult Stem Cell Released Molecules: A Paradigm Shift To Systems Therapeutics" was published by Nova Science Publishers in 2018.

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