The Anatomy of French Fries

French fries have always been one of the world’s most favorite snacks. In the recent years, it has gained lesser patronage from consumers because of many alleged health hazards. But if we come to think of it, French fries are made of potatoes which are rich source of fiber and carbohydrates. So in what way French fries pose danger to our body? And up to what extent?

French fries are made out of potato strips deep fried in oil with a dose of salt and seasoning for taste. Basically, the meal consists of three main ingredients: potato, oil, and salt. Although there have been some variations like using camote, potato remains to be the most common French fries. Potato is a vegetable food and it known to have great health benefits. It is a rich source of Vitamin C vital for a sound immune system, heart and skin.

It also contains Vitamin B6 which can help prevent allergies, kidney stones, heart diseases, mental depressions and other health problems. Moreover, potato can provide Vitamin A, potassium, iron, copper and other microelements for the body. It is also an efficient food for energy production as it contains loads of carbohydrates. Plus, it aids digestion via its fibers.

Ironically, certain preparations of this food can be dangerous. Its skin is normally peeled off which actually contains most of the nutrients. Further, most vitamin C is lost when cooking. But the greatest threat is that potato when deep fried, just like French fries, will contain acrylamide which is known to be a carcinogen (cancer-causing). This chemical substance form naturally when starch-rich food are baked, grilled, toasted, fried or microwaved at high temperatures. In the case of French fries, potatoes are usually cooked at 190OC (374OF) which is high enough to cause acrylamide formation. Accordingly, French fries, particularly fast foods, contain about 300 times more than the safe limits recommended by WHO (World Health Organization). In a study of mice, acrylamide has caused lung, skin, thyroid, mammary gland, and even brain tumors in rats. However, studies with humans exposed to acrylamide, whether in occupationally exposed workers or in the population in general, have not yet produced consistent evidence to support increased cancer risk in human.

Another turn-off for French fries is the saturated fat and trans fat they contain. Even the best oils like olive and canola have health hazards when subjected to too much heat.  Consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as “bad cholesterol” which increases the risk of coronary heart diseases. Consequently, it will lead to fat accumulation in the body and then to obesity. Further, trans fat can potentially damage body cells which encourages tumor formation.

Lastly, French fries contains sodium from salt and seasonings. Having gall stones is only one of the many problems too much sodium in the body can cause.

So the next time we order French fries for our meal, we better think twice. Checking the labels may help, yet labels do not tell all. There may be no concrete evidences on the hazards of eating French fries. Because if this food is totally dangerous, French fries would have long been wiped out on the face of the planet, or being sold only on black markets and smuggled like addictive drugs. We can say it is still relatively safe to eat French fries. But like people and ads always say, take things in moderation.

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