Rejoice! Fried Foods Are Healthy For You!

Onion rings and sweet potato fries from The Counter | Photo: LWY/Flickr/Creative Commons License

You can stop feeling the judgmental eyes of the waiter when you don't sub in grilled for fried. And feel free to get the extra large size of fries at your local diner. Hell, might as well even get two full orders while you're at it. Because, ladies and gentlemen, I am not here to relay scare statistics about how fried foods are going to clog your arteries and send you to an early grave. Instead, I'm here to proclaim the news that everyone with taste buds has been longing to hear: Fried foods are actually good for you!

At least, that's the claim from this article in the Great Lakes Advocate that's been kicking up a minor storm in the food blogosphere. And why wouldn't it, when it starts with the awe-inspiring and radical phrase:

French fries, the scourge of nutritionists and the villain food of the film classic 'Super Size Me,' are actually healthy for you.

Hold it right there, everyone. It's time for the caveats, of which there are many.

The story cites research from the Federico 2 University in Naples, Italy. While the specific research isn't mentioned, what is noted is that the scientists have performed the necessary scientific calculations to dispel the idea that frying foods is somehow bad for you. "Absolutely not!" says Professor Vincenzo Fogliano, the apparently easily-excitable professor linked to the study. He continues, "If it's fried in the correct way, a potato chip... can be an excellent nutritional product." Of course, that "correct way" is full of so many specifics that the claim about "fried equals healthy" quickly loses its validity.

For starters, if you're thinking about frying items like zucchini or eggplant, forget about it. Those vegetables, presumably due to their watery constitution, absorb a whole lot of the oil they're frying in. Thirty percent of it, according to the study. That means the oil's heading right into your digestive tract and leaking all into your arteries. This is, as you'd imagine, not very healthy. However, since starchy products like potatoes absorb a mere five percent of the oils, those can technically be placed in the realm of "not going to murder you immediately" even if they're not exactly "healthy."

Oh, unless the potatoes have been frozen. Because of the freezing process, their ability to absorb oil increases significantly, meaning you'll end up with the same non-healthy option as you had before. The only method to really keep it from being terrible for you, then, is to purchase the potatoes fresh, cut them into fries or chips yourself -- paying mind to leave the skin on, or else all nutritional value is lost -- and frying them up yourself.

And, actually, don't bother cutting them into potato chips:

"They're still high in fat and there's not a lot of nutrition in them."

Those are the words of Melanie McGrice, the spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

So, okay. What does that leave us with if we want to believe that fried foods can be actually healthy? We can't fry things that can absorb oil. We can't eat things that were once frozen. We can eat potato chips, as long as they still have their skin on, and even then it's just less of a negative than actually a positive. French fries, I guess, are alright then?

Ironically, even if fries are cooked the healthy way, customers will voluntarily make them unhealthy.

Oh, right. Salt and ketchup. The two things that make french fries actually worth eating. Thusly, at the end of the piece we're left with the fact that "[F]rench fries are a treat food and should only be eaten in moderation."

So, you know, thanks for the update Italian scientists and Great Lakes Advocate. Everyone go about your business. Nothing to see here.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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