French Fries Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

French fries with salt
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French fries are a popular side dish in fast-food restaurants, burger joints, and in homes across the U.S. The salty snack can be made from scratch using fresh potatoes and your choice of oil and seasoning, but many home cooks use frozen fries, instead. Commercially processed frozen french fries may be made with additional ingredients such as corn starch, rice flour, and artificial flavors.

While potatoes—the primary ingredient in french fries—are a lower-calorie, low-fat food, french fries are usually high in fat, calories, and sodium. If you include them in your diet, it's smart to consume french fries in moderation or to use a cooking method that reduces the fat and sodium content.

French Fries Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one serving (100 grams or about 1/2 cup) of french fries made from fresh potatoes and fried.

  • Calories: 196
  • Fat: 13.1g
  • Sodium: 141mg
  • Carbohydrates: 18.5g
  • Fiber: 1.6g
  • Sugars: 1.25g
  • Protein: 1.93g

Carbs

There are 196 calories and 18.5 grams of carbohydrates in a single serving of french fries. However, calorie counts can vary depending on how the french fries are prepared. For example, fast-food french fries and restaurant french fries tend to be higher in calories and carbs. A single serving of homemade french fries contains about 1.6 grams of fiber and 1.25 grams of naturally-occurring sugar. The rest of the carbohydrate in french fries is starch.

The glycemic index (GI) of french fries can vary but most estimates put the number between 54 and 75, making them a moderate to high glycemic food.

Fats

According to USDA data, french fries usually contain about 13g of fat per serving. This includes 1.8g of saturated fat, 5.4g of polyunsaturated fat, and 5.4g of monounsaturated fat.

Fast food french fries are likely to be higher in total fat and saturated fat. According to USDA data, McDonald's french fries contain 15.5g of total fat and 2.3g of saturated fat per 100-gram serving.

Protein

A single serving of french fries provides about 1.9g of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

French fries can be a good source of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C (9.7mg), vitamin B6 (0.265mg), and vitamin K (16.3mcg). But again, the nutrients you get from fries can depend on the preparation method. Potato skins are known to contain more nutrients (such as potassium, fiber, and B vitamins), so if you consume fries with the skins still on you may benefit from more vitamins and minerals.

Health Benefits

The health benefits that you gain from consuming french fries are likely to come from the nutrients in the potatoes. The oil and seasonings used to prepare standard fries are not likely to contribute any substantial benefits and can come with drawbacks.

Any health benefit you gain from eating fries must be balanced with the potential drawbacks of possibly consuming too much salt and fat.

May Support Healthy Immune Function

The vitamin C in potatoes may be beneficial in the body. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for a healthy immune system. It also plays a role in building strong connective tissue and wound repair. Since vitamin C can't be stored in the body, it must be consumed in food. White potatoes provide the nutrient, but other foods including citrus fruits and some dark green vegetables are better sources.

May Improve Early Brain Development

The vitamin B6 supplied by potatoes is important for proper brain development during pregnancy and infancy. In fact, pregnant and breastfeeding women have higher recommended intakes of vitamin B6 than adult men and women (who are not pregnant or breastfeeding).

Potatoes and starchy vegetables provide B6, but again, if you consume french fries, you may get the nutrient bundled with less healthy nutrients such as fat and sodium. Other sources of vitamin B6 include poultry, organ meats, and fish.

May Reduce Oxidative Stress

Potatoes provide antioxidants including carotenoids, anthocyanins, and chlorogenic and caffeic acids. Antioxidants can help repair cells damaged by oxidative stress, which can contribute to a number of chronic diseases.

Researchers acknowledge that other fruits and vegetables contribute higher amounts of antioxidants, but because white potatoes are so widely consumed in the U.S. they may be a significant contributor of antioxidants in the typical U.S. diet.

May Promote Weight Maintenance

Some researchers have argued that the fiber and resistant starch in white potatoes may provide certain health benefits, stating that healthy carbohydrates can be protective against weight gain. In one study, researchers even found that french fries are higher in resistant starch than boiled potatoes. Resistant starch passes through the small intestine without being digested and it may boost satiety in certain individuals.

Again, it is important to remember that—depending on preparation method—potatoes and french fries may provide resistant starch and fiber (in the skin), but they are also a source of calories, sodium, and fat.

Low-Cost Source of Nutrients

Some researchers have supported the inclusion of white potatoes in the diet, despite the fact that this starchy vegetable is often maligned for its lack of nutritional value when compared with other vegetables. Authors of one study remind readers that white potatoes provide a low-cost source of critical nutrients, high-quality protein, and a satiating carbohydrate.

Of course, french fries consumed in a restaurant or purchased at a fast-food drive-thru are not likely to be as budget-friendly as homemade. If you make low-salt, baked french fries at home using fresh potatoes, you can provide your family with vitamins and minerals for less money than some other popular side dishes.

Allergies

Allergies to raw potatoes are rare but there are some reports documenting severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Reactions may be more common in those with hay fever or allergies to birch tree pollen. Mild symptoms may include tingling in the mouth and lips and can increase to include difficulty breathing.

The cooking oil used to prepare french fries may also cause an allergic reaction. Research has suggested that refined oils do not cause allergic reactions, as they do not contain proteins.

But some other limited research sources suggest that unrefined oil and oils that are presumed to be refined can provoke reactions in some people. If you suspect an allergy or experience a reaction after consuming french fries, speak to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Adverse Effects

When consumed in moderation, french fries are not likely to cause adverse effects in most people. But if you over-consume any salty food, it is not uncommon to feel bloated from the excess sodium intake.

Varieties

French fries are usually made with white Idaho potatoes, although some people use Yukon potatoes, sweet potatoes, or other varieties when they make french fries at home. If you buy commercially processed (frozen) french fries or consume fast food or restaurant french fries the nutritional content may vary.

For example, according to USDA data, a 100-gram serving of frozen french fries contains 224 calories, 14g of fat, 23g of carbs, and 295mg of sodium. At McDonald's, a similar serving of fries provides 323 calories, 15.5g of fat, and 189mg of sodium. Burger King french fries contain 280 calories, 12.5g of fat, and 279mg of sodium per 100-gram serving. USDA data also notes that restaurant french fries provide 289 calories, 14g of fat, and 357mg of sodium.

When It’s Best

Potatoes are usually harvested in the fall or early winter. French fries are available all year long.

Storage and Food Safety

French fries should be consumed immediately after they are prepared as they lose their texture when they get cold. The USDA does not recommend refrigerating fries as they lose their quality. Frozen french fries stay fresh for up to 12 months when stored in the freezer.

How to Prepare

The best way to enjoy french fries and gain the health benefits of potatoes is to make them at home in the oven. This way you can control the ingredients and eliminate excess fat and sodium. There are different methods you can use.

Many cooks use white russet potatoes, but you can also try sweet potatoes or other varieties. White potatoes have the highest starch content and provide the most familiar french fry taste. Keep the skins on to benefit from the extra nutrients.

Slice the potatoes into quarter-inch strips and toss into cool water to keep them from going brown. Once they are all sliced lay them out on a paper towel and pat dry. You can either toss them into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil or with an egg white or two. Many cooks use egg white instead of oil to cut down on the fat content and also to give the fries a crispier finish.

Place the potatoes on a non-stick baking pan or a pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at about 425 degrees. If you used egg whites instead of oil, you may need to lower the baking temperature to 375, to keep the egg white from burning. It usually takes about 30–40 minutes before the fries get crispy.

If you are watching your sodium intake, consider dusting your fries with other seasonings instead of salt. Garlic powder, paprika, basil, and Italian seasoning are favorites among many cooks. Just be sure to check your spice mix if you are using one as many contain salt.

Recipes

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