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French fries are a staple in your diet, but if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight and work out regularly, they should be an occasional treat. However, these high-calorie foods can also lead to health complications such as heart disease, so you should avoid them entirely.
The basic French fry is a delectable side dish that may help you feel full. It’s a mainstay in many American households. But have you ever considered the calories and nutritional composition of French fries?
It’s difficult to say whether or not French fries are healthy. Whether you want to know if eating French fries from a fast restaurant drive-thru will help you achieve your health objectives, for example. The answer is obviously “no.”
However, are there any French fries that might be a healthy addition to a meal? Absolutely!
Why are calories and nutrition important when it comes to French fries? Because practically everyone in our nation consumes them. According to their yearly checkups, there seems to be a tendency for youngsters between the ages of one and two to begin consuming fast food products, particularly French fries.
If we’re serving McDonald’s French fries to children still in diapers, we should know how they’re created, what’s in them, and the risks they represent — but it’s not all bad news. You (and your kid) can still eat French fries and feel good about it since they’re part of a balanced diet.
How? So, I’ll take care of it.
What Are French Fries and How Do They Taste?
French fries are cut potato strips that have been cooked and are frequently served with a pinch of salt. Although there is some controversy about where French fries originated, it is widely acknowledged that they were developed in America (although they are popular in France as well!).
One idea revolves around the phrase “frenching,” which refers to cutting dishes into lengthwise strips in the kitchen. According to others, Thomas Jefferson christened them “French fries” after the nation where he first tasted fried potatoes.
Whatever the situation may be, most consumers no longer order French fries with the three-ingredient formula (potatoes, oil, and salt).
Let’s take a look at the most famous example: a medium side of McDonald’s French fries. A three-ingredient recipe becomes a 17-ingredient list, including numerous special concern substances.
For one thing, McDonald’s (and other fast-food restaurants) fried using canola oil, which is nearly invariably genetically engineered.
At the very least, French fries are gluten- and dairy-free. A package of French fries may include some nasty oil, but it does not contain sugar. But, again, I’m mistaken.
Because McDonald’s vegetable oil includes both wheat and milk, anyone with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a milk allergy may negatively react to this side dish.
The fries also include dextrose, a kind of maize sugar that is chemically equivalent to blood sugar (glucose). Dextrose is not suggested for pregnant or nursing women, those with hepatic or diabetes problems, or anyone with various other health conditions. It may rapidly raise blood sugar levels and hinder normal fat digestion.
Other ingredients include hydrogenated soybean oil (which is almost always GMO and high in hormone-disrupting phytoestrogens), sodium acid pyrophasphate (which is listed on the chemical industry’s safety data sheets as “hazardous for ingestion”), and dimethylpolysiloxane (a foaming agent commonly found in caulking and sealants).
As you can see, not all calories in French fries are created equal. So let’s take a closer look at the distinctions.
Calories and Nutritional Values of French Fries
For the sake of this comparison, we’ll use a medium McDonald’s French fries order, which includes 117 grams of potato, or almost half a cup.
I’m not a huge fan of white potatoes, to begin with (because there are so many better options), but I wanted you to see the differences between what you get from fast-food French fries, what you get from cooking a similar recipe at home, and what you get from sweet potato fries, which is one of my favorite options.
A medium order of McDonald’s French fries (about 117 grams) comprises approximately:
- Calorie Count: 370
- Carbohydrates: 45.7 grams
- Protein: 4.5 grams
- Fat content: 18.9 grams
- Fiber: 4.9 grams
- Sodium: 266 milligrams
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 415 milligrams
- Omega-6: 4,961 milligrams
- Vitamin B6: 0.6 milligrams (30 percent DV)
- Thiamine: Vitamin B1, 0.4 mg (26 percent DV)
- Potassium 655 milligrams (19 percent DV)
- Folate: 70.2 micrograms (18 percent DV)
- Niacin: 3.2 milligrams (16 percent DV)
- Phosphorus: 154 milligrams (15 percent DV)
- Vitamin C: 8.5 milligrams (14 percent DV)
- Manganese: 0.3 milligrams (13 percent DV)
- Magnesium: 37.4 milligrams (9 percent DV)
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.8 micrograms (8 percent DV)
- Copper: 0.1 gram (7 percent DV)
- Iron: 1 gram (6 percent DV)
Some of this is amazing, but the picture becomes clearer when you remember that these “nutrients” are derived from genetically engineered sources and are contaminated with many chemicals.
What would it look like to prepare the same number of French fries using coconut oil at home? (As a side note, some people attempt pan-frying potatoes with olive oil at home, which I don’t suggest since it becomes rancid at high temperatures.)
One serving (114 grams) of homemade white potato pan-fried French fries with one tablespoon of coconut oil includes approximately:
- Calorie Count: 193
- Carbs: 18.4 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 13.6 grams
- Fiber: 2.2 grams
- Sodium: 6 milligrams
- Sugar: 0.8 gram
- Omega-3: 10 milligrams
- Omega- 6 fatty acids: 275 milligrams
- Vitamin C: 19.7 milligrams (33 percent DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.3 milligrams (15 percent DV)
- Potassium: 421 milligrams (12 percent DV)
- Manganese: 0.2 milligrams (8 percent DV)
- Magnesium: 23 milligrams (6 percent DV)
- Phosphorus: 57 milligrams (6 percent DV)
- Thiamine: 0.1 milligram (5 percent DV)
- Niacin: 1.1 milligrams (5 percent DV)
- Copper: 0.1 gram (5 percent DV)
- Folate: 16 micrograms (4 percent DV)
- Iron: 0.8 micrograms of iron (4 percent DV)
- Choline: 12.1 milligrams
- Betaine: 0.2 micrograms
Although the calories in French fries seem to be more acceptable, the carbohydrate load in white potatoes is still more than I want. What about my first choice?
A serving of homemade sweet potato French fries cooked with one tablespoon of coconut oil (about 114 grams) comprises around:
- Calorie Count: 202
- Carbohydrates: 20.1 grams
- Protein: 1.6 grams
- Fat: 13.6 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sodium: 55 milligrams
- Sugar: 4.1 grams
- Omega- 3 fatty acids: 1 milligram
- Omega 6: 256 milligrams
- Vitamin A: 14,185 International Units (284 percent DV)
- Manganese: 0.3 milligrams (13 percent DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 milligrams (10 percent DV)
- Potassium: 337 milligrams (10 percent DV)
- Copper: 0.2 milligrams (8 percent DV)
- Vitamin B5:0.8 milligram pantothenic acid (8 percent DV)
- Magnesium: 25 milligrams (6 percent DV)
- Phosphorus: 47 milligrams (5 percent DV)
- Thiamine Vitamin B1: 0.1 milligrams (5 percent DV)
- Vitamin B2 riboflavin: 0.1 milligrams (4 percent DV)
- Vitamin C: 2.4 milligrams (4 percent DV)
The third choice is clearly the most nutrient-dense. However, what makes them so much better is arguably what they don’t have. Are there any other, less obvious reasons why most French fries are unhealthy?
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Them
1. Increases the risk of cancer
A quick Google search will reveal the most common cause for worry about professionally manufactured French fries: acrylamide.
This chemical, used in various industrial processes such as papermaking and wastewater treatment, may be detected in certain starchy foods when cooked at high temperatures. Although acrylamide is a relatively recent molecule (discovered in 2002), it seems that high-temperature cooking causes a reaction between certain sugars and asparagine (an amino acid) to produce it.
Frying is the worst way to prepare carbohydrates like white potatoes, followed by baking, broiling, and roasting. To reduce acrylamide development while cooking items like these, maintain the temperature below 250 degrees Fahrenheit or boil/steam the potatoes.
Although no long-term human studies on acrylamide’s effect on cancer risk have been conducted, the National Cancer Institute lists acrylamide as a diet component that most likely raises cancer risk. In addition, many animal studies have shown a relationship between the two.
When studying human individuals with elevated acrylamide markers in small cohort studies throughout Europe, researchers discovered a possible risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and renal cell carcinoma.
Another research from Taiwan revealed that teenagers aged 13 to 18 who eat a lot of French fries had a cancer risk that is greater than the “target excess lifetime cancer risk (ELCR),” which refers to the risk that develops over a lifetime of exposure to probable carcinogens in foods and other sources.
Cut and soak your potatoes before cooking to reduce your acrylamide exposure. If you have the time, soak them for two hours, which will lower the acrylamide amount by up to half. Rinsing for just 30 seconds may reduce the quantity by more than 20%.
To avoid acrylamide poisoning, never store raw potatoes in the refrigerator. Instead, before preparing them, store them in a cold, dark area.
According to a 2008 Danish research, adding rosemary extract to homemade French fry recipes may lower acrylamide concentration by up to 67 percent, suggesting that using rosemary in homemade French fry recipes might help minimize your risk of exposure.
It should come as no surprise that regular visits to McDonald’s might lead to obesity. Did you realize, though, that the simple French fries that come with your Big Mac might be a factor?
Dextrose, an added sugar, is one of the culprits in the components in McDonald’s French fries. Americans are thought to eat three to four times the daily recommended amount of added sugar on average. Weight gain is one of the unfavorable side effects of consuming too much-added sugars.
Not unexpectedly, the corn sugar in which the fries are soaked is another way consumers are exposed to genetically modified maize via the conventional American diet. Obesity is connected to increased consumption of maize products, regardless of gender or race.
When excess carbohydrates, such as dextrose, cannot be digested promptly, they are deposited in fat cells, resulting in obesity and, in rare cases, insulin resistance (and an increased risk for several conditions).
A research in Puerto Rico discovered that a diet heavy in calories from French fries, beef, and processed meat correlated to a high “allostatic load,” or the cumulative wear and tear associated with chronic stress. Higher waist circumference and blood pressure were likewise linked to the same diet.
Another problem with typical white potato French fries is the complexity of their carbs. White potatoes break down rapidly and raise blood sugar levels, but sweet potatoes break down more slowly and provide complete nourishment.
3. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bones
Sodium acid pyrophosphate, a leavening ingredient typically found in cheeseburgers, milk products, and boxed cake mixes, is also included in McDonald’s fries. It’s vital to keep track of how much you’re eating since it’s absorbed as phosphorus in the body, and your phosphorus-to-calcium ratio should be about 1:1.
Rich blood phosphorus levels may be caused by eating French fries and other high phosphorus and sodium acid pyrophosphate meals. Too much phosphorus disturbs the body’s functioning and contributes to bone loss, which leads to osteoporosis.
4. Carcinogenic Pesticides
McDonald’s, in particular, takes pleasure in its use of non-genetically engineered potatoes. That may be motivating on its own, but pesticides used on potatoes acquired by the fast-food business have been a significant source of worry in recent years.
Minnesota seems to be one of the most concerning states. Up to 10% of agricultural pesticides, according to the EPA, float away from the target they’re supposed to spray. Because of pesticide drift, Minnesota locals have created the Toxic Taters anti-pesticide organization to combat what they consider a severe threat to their communities’ health.
Between 2006 and 2009, air quality testing in numerous Minnesota counties revealed that at least one pesticide, including chlorathalonil, pendimethalin, chlorpyrifos, PCNB, and 2,4-D, was detected in a third of samples.
To give you a quick summary of the effects of various pesticides, consider the following: One has been linked to neurological problems, renal damage, and malignancies. Two of them have been linked to non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s and sarcoma, making them “potential human carcinogens.” The EPA previously prohibited one due to safety concerns before being reintroduced to the market. Finally, one is an endocrine disruptor that profoundly impacts thyroid function.
Methamidophos, often known as Monitor, is a pesticide applied on most of the Russett Burbank potatoes that go into McDonald’s French fries. According to the Extension Toxicology Network, Monitor insecticide is a Class I substance, a cooperative operation of Cornell University and three other major U.S. institutions, and requires a “Danger – Poison” label whenever manufactured.
Methamidophos is “highly toxic via oral, dermal, and inhalation routes,” with side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, confusion, heart rate changes, convulsions, coma, cessation of breathing, reduced sperm count, low birth weights, genotoxicity (the ability to change chromosomal structure), and liver damage, I’m simply going to say “no.”
5. Diabetic complications
French fries are linked to the development of Type II diabetes, maybe due to the simplicity of the carbs in white potatoes.
Two studies that looked at the link between eating French fries as a replacement for complex carbs like whole grains and diabetes revealed that people who ate French fries and other traditional potato meals had a higher chance of developing diabetes. The total number of people in these cohorts is 283,736.
Eliminating French fries from a pregnant woman’s diet may help her prevent gestational diabetes. A 2016 research indicated that women who routinely eat soft beverages and French fries calories have a higher risk of gestational diabetes, especially if they are already overweight or obese.
Aside from the one described above, at least one other research discovered a substantial link between eating a lot of French fries and other white potato products and an elevated risk of hypertension.
7. Food Addiction
In 2015, a groundbreaking study looked at the incidence of food addiction in 100 overweight and obese children. Seventy-one percent of the youngsters in the research were diagnosed with food addiction, with French fries coming in fourth place behind chocolate, ice cream, and carbonated drinks as the most often addictive foods detected.
Eating French fries once or twice a week elevated the likelihood of food addiction by more than two times in research participants.
8. Sperm That Moves Slowly
Asthenozoospermia, a disorder characterized by slow-moving sperm, seems to be linked to Western eating patterns, notably French fries and other fast meals. On the other hand, a “prudent” diet, which included plenty of colorful vegetables, fish, fruits, legumes, whole grains, chicken, tea, coffee, dairy, and oils, did not provide the same benefits.
9. Inflammation caused by an imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids
The amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids were given in the nutrition data towards the beginning of this article, which savvy readers may have spotted. I wanted to make sure you could notice the distinctions between different varieties of French fries so you could be aware of the issues that might come from a fatty acid imbalance.
The specifics of these connections are complicated, but to summarize: Omega-3s and omega-6s both have a lot of advantages, but the ratio of acids is crucial. Americans consume significantly too much omega-6 while receiving insufficient omega-3s, resulting in chronic inflammation and illness. Reducing omega-6 levels may help guard against degenerative and chronic disorders and can reduce the chance of mortality by up to 70%.
The same conversion enzymes activate Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; hence they compete for those enzymes. While historical standards suggest a 1:1 ratio, current diets often range from 10:1 to 20:1, with some people reaching 25:1.
Reduce your omega-6 consumption to roughly 3% of your daily calories (on a 2,000-calorie diet) and eat around 0.65 grams of omega-3s per day to attain an appropriate omega-3:omega-6 ratio. This is quite near to the 2.3:1 ratio, which is considered “ideal.”
What do French fries have to do with this? On the other hand, McDonald’s French fries’ calories include almost five grams of omega-3s, compared to 83 percent of your daily omega-6 consumption on an ideal diet. On the other hand, homemade French fries or sweet potato French fries have roughly 275 milligrams of omega-6s per serving, which is about 6% of what McDonald’s French fries have.
Because you’re likely to consume more than a side of French fries in one sitting, it’s advisable to avoid meals with such an imbalanced ratio. Instead, you may minimize inflammation and lower your overall risk of illness by maintaining your ratio between 1:1 and 2.3:1.
Are There Any Nutritional Benefits?
As I previously said, I am not a fan of white potatoes. In my opinion and many of the natural health community, white potatoes’ basic, starchy carbohydrate content breaks down too rapidly and so does not provide the type of long-term nourishment that other potato alternatives provide.
However, other studies promote white potatoes as a cost-effective source of nutrition, and they do contain key vitamins and minerals while being relatively low in calories.
However, the general agreement is that colorful potatoes provide the most comprehensive set of health advantages. These advantages originate from antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals, which help people avoid chronic and acute ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s.
If you make homemade French fries using sweet potatoes or purple potatoes, the calories in French fries may be quite beneficial. However, traditional French fries, particularly those offered at fast-food restaurants, are unhealthy.
Alternatives & Recipes for Healthier Fries
I don’t despise all potatoes – far from it. However, several delicious French fry choices won’t deplete your nutritious bank account in one sitting. For example, these sweet potato rosemary fries are really simple to cook and have both sweet potato and rosemary health benefits.
Turnip fries and roasted veggie fries are two additional fantastic possibilities. These both give you the sensation of eating those delicious fries without the guilt of eating them.
Do you really want that traditional potato flavor? What about purple sweet potato French fries, which come in various colors? Purple potatoes are high in antioxidants and are recognized for their health advantages, such as blood pressure management and insoluble fiber content.
Cautionary Notes on French Fries Calories
Potato allergy is a possibility for some individuals; however, it is uncommon. Being a part of the Solanaceae family, the potato may elicit allergy symptoms similar to those seen when eating tomatoes, cherries, eggplant, melon, pear, and other members of this food group.
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itchy mouth, swelling throat, eczema, atopic dermatitis, runny nose, weepy eyes, sneezing, asthma, and tight chest are all common symptoms of potato allergy.
- Fast-food fries, such as those from McDonald’s or Burger King, contain many more ingredients than most people would assume.
- The calories in French fries vary depending on where they are purchased, with a medium fry from a fast-food chain containing 370 calories and handmade variants containing roughly 200 calories per serving.
- Consumption of carcinogenic acrylamide, obesity, osteoporosis, pesticide exposure, diabetes, high blood pressure, food addiction, sperm difficulties, and chronic inflammation is linked to regularly eating standard French fries.
- Instead of using white potatoes to create typical French fries, consider sweet potatoes or purple potatoes to produce fries that are high in health benefits rather than hazards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why shouldn’t you eat french fries?
A: There are many reasons. First, french fries often contain high levels of fat and calories that can lead to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Secondly, potatoes are a starchy food which means they will not break down in the stomach as easily or quickly as other foods like fruits and vegetables, which could cause cramping when eaten too much at once.
Why is it recommended you do not eat french fries every day?
A: French fries are not healthy food, and eating them every day may lead to obesity.
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