Like peanut butter without jelly, popcorn without butter, salt without pepper””what good are burgers without French fries?
Greasy, salty and downright delicious, French fries are the ultimate all-American snack, first introduced to the U.S. in 1801, when Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House during his presidency. Today, French fries are the single most popular fast food, with the average person chowing down 54 pounds of them every year.
Because they’re fried, French fries are obviously high in calories and fat. Most people overlook this and regularly enjoy a serving with their cheeseburger. But another ingredient has health-conscious individuals and even national organizations worked up about the mere safety of consuming the hot, crispy shoestrings at all.
A substance called acrylamide, which forms when carbohydrates are baked or fried at high temperatures, exists in strikingly high concentrations in French fries. In fact, a study performed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that a large order of McDonald’s French fries contains more than 600 times the amount of acrylamide that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in a glass of drinking water.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the levels of acrylamide in foods pose a “major concern” and more research is needed to determine the risks of dietary acrylamide exposure. Decreasing cooking time, blanching potatoes before frying and post-drying in a hot air oven after frying are all ways to decrease the levels of acrylamide in French fries. Or, you can just avoid them all together.
Instead of French fries, try baked or roasted potatoes. Even better, try broiling sweet potato wedges (which have more fiber, vitamins A and C, and calcium than white potatoes). If you crave the crunch, opt for natural crackers or crisps.