Eating fried potatoes too often doubles the chances of an early death, according to a new health study – but experts say these risks greatly depend on how the spuds are cooked.
The research findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that those who consume fried potatoes – including french fries, potato chips and hash browns – two or more times a week increased their risk of dying prematurely.
It did not find a similar mortality risk linked to consumption of potatoes that had not been fried.
Nutrition Plus accredited practicing dietitian Melanie McGrice told The New Daily that it comes down to how the potatoes are prepared.
She said there was definitely no need for potatoes to be eliminated entirely from diets, instead advising that deep frying should be avoided when possible.
“What the study doesn’t capture is the type of oil used, the amount of salt, the thickness of the chips and the serving size. These factors can all impact our health,” Ms McGrice said.
“Fries soak up more salt and more oil than thicker chips or wedges, adding extra salt can be bad for our health, and use of olive oil can be much healthier.
“Obviously if you’re buying chips from a takeaway shop, they’re not going to be doing that. Usually they’re deep fried in vegetable oil.”
For those cooking at home, Ms McGrice recommended stir frying potato chips or wedges in a pan with a bit of olive oil or canola oil, with some fresh rosemary.
“You can’t deep fry with olive oil but I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s a good idea to avoid deep frying altogether. You can get nice crispy potatoes in a pan,” she said.
“Or you can roast them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, some garlic, cracked pepper and rosemary, served with some greek yoghurt.
“And leave the skin on to maximise the nutritional value and for more fibre. The most nutrients in potatoes are found just under the skin.”
She said slicing fresh potatoes was always a better option than using the frozen variety but for those purchasing frozen chips, it was important to check the label to ensure there is no added salt and a preferred oil.
“It’s quite easy to get into the habit of grabbing some hot chips as a side dish for a meal when eating out,” she said.
“I think the study serves as a good reminder of how much our food choices can impact our health and mortality risk.”
Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton added that the increased mortality risk finding may also depend on what food is eaten in combination with the fries.
“What is consumed along with the chips versus what is likely to be consumed with steamed potatoes may be relevant. For example, chips are often consumed with burgers or other fast food, making a meal that is high in saturated fat and usually low in total vegetables,” she said.
“Whereas boiled or steamed potatoes are more likely to accompany other vegetables on the dinner plate.
“Chips may be consumed as a snack between meals or in place of a meal. Those who don’t eat chips as a snack may avoid snacking altogether or choose something healthier such as a piece of fruit.”