The more fried potatoes you eat, the higher your chances of death. That was the conclusion researchers came to at the end of their study, which has been published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the researchers, people who ate fried potato products, like french fries, tater tots, and hash browns, more than twice a week significantly increased their mortality risk.
For their study, the researchers carefully tracked the eating habits of 4,440 people, between the ages of 45 to 79 years old, over an eight-year period. During the course of the study, a total of 236 participants died. The researchers turned to the food frequency questionnaires the participants answered, and from there they found that the majority of these participants frequently consumed fried potatoes. Conversely, the researchers noted that potatoes prepared via other means (such as by steaming or roasting) were not associated with a greater risk of death. Additionally, fried potatoes by themselves were not stated to cause death.
Jessica Cording, a New York-based registered dietitian, told Yahoo.com that the findings were unsurprising. “Fried potatoes are a food that provides a lot of calories, sodium, and sometimes trans fat, but contributes minimal nutrition. They don’t actively do the body many favors in that respect,” Cording stated. (Related: Kids are engaging in dangerous diets where they go days without greens and depend on french fries as their only source of vegetables)
What makes fried potatoes dangerous?
Potatoes are relatively nutritious vegetables: They’re packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium, and even some antioxidants; they’re also devoid of fats, sodium, and cholesterol. This changes with the cooking and consumption methods, however. Frying and the quality of cooking oil used can greatly alter the nutritional value of potatoes.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils like corn and canola oil have polyunsaturated fats that degrade when constantly heated and reheated. These damaged fats are strongly linked to promoting inflammation within the body that becomes the starting point of a plethora of health problems. For foods like french fries, the hydrogenated oils are just the beginning: French fries themselves contain high glycemic carbohydrates that surge insulin into the bloodstream and bring in unhealthy fats. Moreover, the trans fats in french fries can increase the prevalence of heart diseases, as can the high amounts of sodium chloride.
Acrylamide is a more recent discovery but it adds to the dangers of fried potatoes. This substance forms in starchy foods that have been exposed to high-temperature cooking; specifically, when carbohydrates and the amino acid asparagine are cooked together. Acrylamide is considered both a carcinogenic and genotoxic substance, meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer and damage the genetic material of our cells. Unfortunately, acrylamide is plentiful in potatoes since these vegetables are full of asparagine and carbohydrates.
Reducing the potential hazards in fried potatoes is simple. Instead of swearing off french fries and hash browns forever, some simple steps can be taken to ensure that they’re healthier:
- Use avocado oil or coconut oil for frying. These oils have no hydrogenated fats or trans fats, and they remain stable at high temperatures.
- If you must add salt to your fried potatoes, opt for healthier varieties like Himalayan crystal salt. This particular kind of salt offers beneficial minerals you won’t find in regular table salt.
- Roasting and baking are cooking methods that don’t require a lot of oil, making them the superior cooking methods over frying. If you can avoid the frying pan, do so and utilize your oven instead.
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