I smack myself in the forehead every time there’s an article published on the oversimplified findings of a study that has to do with a certain food item. I’m a food nerd and these things deeply offend me. Almost as offensive as scientists’ desire to make a pill out of a compound found in broccoli that might treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.
“Study shows coffee is good for you”
“Study indicates coffee will kill you”
“Soft drinks increase risk of diabetes”
“Diet soft drinks linked to an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease”
“Too much water will kill you”
“Eggs are bad for you”
“Eggs aren’t as bad as initially thought”
“Fat is bad”
“Fat is beneficial”
“Wine is healthy”
“Wine is bad”
Arrrrgh! Stop! All this forehead smacking is giving me a GD headache.
This week, a study that topped health news and was misconstrued by multiple interpretations, determined that people who eat three or more servings of french fries per week have an increased risk of meeting Death early. Give me a break. This study doesn’t take into account what these people are eating WITH the fries and the things that are likely being left out of their diets (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables). Say they have a medium order of fries with a double quarter pounder (with cheese, obviously) and they wash it down with 30 ounces of coke. There are multiple problems with this order and fried potatoes have very little to do with it. First, preservatives. Bun, meat, potatoes, cheese, and even the oil have chemicals in them to prevent spoilage. Second, carbs. Yes, potatoes are carb-heavy but they’re nothing when compared to that 30 ounce soda and the bun plus condiments (ketchup is essentially straight sugar). By consuming all of these things together, it creates a perfect storm of inflammation that can fuel cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Other lifestyle factors weren’t taken into consideration either. Did the people exercise? Did they smoke? Did they snort cocaine all day long? Were they heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages? It’s nearly impossible to have an accurate study when it comes to a population’s eating habits when it’s not done in a controlled environment. I don’t think anyone would agree to live in a lab for 20 years with the promise of three or more servings of french fries per week.
If this study said “fast food isn’t good for you”, that I might agree with, but to pick on the poor fried potato? Leave potatoes alone!
“But Kara, what about acrylamide in fried starches?”
I’m so glad you asked, dear imaginary friend. Maybe you’re thinking that having a baked potato is better than having a box of fries because of that one potentially carcinogenic chemical. Baked potatoes have it too. A white potato that is cooked above 240 degrees Fahrenheit will have acrylamide, with the exception of boiling (boiling may reduce acrylamide in the finished product, but it also leaches out nutrients). As of right now, it’s unknown whether foods that contain this actually cause cancer or if it’s just the chemical itself in concentrated doses. Hell, rice has arsenic in it. Several different types of fruit have seeds which contain amygdalin (that, when eaten, is enzymatically converted into cyanide). Do people die from apple poisoning? I’ve never heard of it.
The primary concern is acrylamide exposure in processed or fried potato products, but the jury is still out.
To benefit the humble fried potato, I will provide some positive-biased facts about my favorite tuber. If I hated potatoes, I’d be operating on a negative bias but as it stands, I’m Irish. If you were to plant me in the ground, a year later you’d have potatoes to harvest. Slightly insane potatoes, but we don’t discriminate here.
Fries are delicious. Without fries, there wouldn’t be poutine. A world without poutine is not a world I want to live in.
Fries are full of potassium. In fact, there’s so much potassium in white potatoes that I wasn’t allowed to eat them before I started dialysis.
Potatoes also have a ton of vitamin B6, B3, and since they grow in the ground they also contain trace minerals like copper and manganese. Maybe this is why fried potato wedges are the perfect drunk person food. Potatoes even have vitamin C so you won’t get scurvy. With the skins intact, you also get a decent amount of dietary fiber to make your good gut bugs happy.
Potatoes contain a blood pressure lowering compound called kukoamine. There are only a couple other discovered plants on earth that contain it. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist elsewhere, it just hasn’t been found yet.
Lastly, the perfect way to eat a potato is with a healthy slathering of butter. Combining the starch with a fat helps slow down digestion and prevents the blood sugar from spiking. The same goes with potato chips and french fries. Frying also flash cooks them quickly so the nutrients are essentially sealed in.
Being in the nightshade family, certain groups of people are probably more prone to ill potato affects than others. Eating a bag full of kettle chips will make my knees swell up, so that’s where the everything in moderation cliché comes in.
Will eating french fries kill you? Probably not, unless they happen to be green. If they don’t, time will. Any way you slice it, we are but fragile mortals.
Semper fi, french fries.