Dangerous fries

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am

Deep-fried strips of potato - known as French fries or fries in North America, chips in the UK and pommes frites in Belgium - have been popular in fast food restaurants since the early 1950s.

According to the Atlantic Monthly in 2001, Americans eat four servings of French fries a week.

Research by the British Potato Council in 2003 showed that one in four of all British potatoes were eaten as chips.

Traditionally, French fries have been considered high in fat and calories.

More recently, the amount of trans fats they contain has rung alarm bells among health-conscious consumers.

Are these health scares true or have fries just been given bad press?

Become savvy

However you prefer your fries, the table below will give you an idea of fat and calorie contents.

Thin or thick?

If you really want to eat fries, but want to cut down on your fat intake, choose thickly cut chips whenever possible.

Thick-cut chips absorb less oil than thinly cut ones.

Oven-baked chips are a great alternative to deep-fried ones. A serving of thin-cut oven chips contains 267 calories and seven grams of fat.

The same size serving of thick-cut oven chips contains 259 calories and seven grams

of fat.

Thick potato wedges are also an excellent lower fat alternative to French fries, provided you don't drizzle them with oil before cooking.

Trans fats

Trans fats are used in many processed foods, such as biscuits, cake, French fries, baked foods and nuggets.

Research shows that we need to watch out for this type of fat: it raises the 'bad' cholesterol in our blood and lowers the 'good' blood cholesterol which protects us against heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends we consume between two and

2.5 grams of trans fat a day.

But statistics show that people in developed countries such as the US, the UK and Canada are eating much more than that.

A recent report showed that 15- to 25-year-old Canadians eat around 38 grams of trans fat a day. The majority of this intake comes from eating fast and processed foods.

A recent report by McDonalds Corp in the US showed that a large portion of fries contain eight grams of trans fat.

More bad news

Acrylamide is a possible cancer-causing substance. It is formed during frying, baking and roasting.

Research has been done into alternative methods of cooking French fries.

A 2006 paper published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that pre-cooking French fries using the microwave to reduce frying time reduces the amount of acrylamide by up to

60 per cent.

Expert tip

Don't let these facts fill you with doom and gloom. They simply point to the benefits of eating a healthy and balanced variety of foods.

Eating French fries on an occasional basis can fit into a healthy eating scheme.

Choosing alternatives such as baked, boiled or mashed potatoes can help you decrease the amount of fat in your diet.

Cooking your own healthy version of French fries can be fun too. Chop a large potato into wedges, boil for five minutes, drain and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp and cooked.


1. Which of the following contain the least fat?

a. Frozen, thick-cut fries

b. Frozen, thin-cut fries

c. Frozen, crinkle-cut fries

2. What are deep-fried strips of potato called in Belgium?

a. Chips

b. Pommes de terre

c. Pommes frites

3. Trans fats do not have an effect on blood cholesterol.

True or false?

4. How much trans fat does the American Heart Association recommend we eat?

a. 0-1.5g a day

b. 2-2.5g a day

c. 2.5-3g a day


1. a, 2. c, 3. false, 4. b


Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Dangerous fries

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)