Fries can be good for you, say Italians
French fries, the scourge of nutritionists and the villain food of the film classic Super Size Me, are actually healthy for you, according to researchers from the Federico 2 University of Naples in Italy.
Doesn't that sound great now that summer's here and fish and chips on the beach is looming as an enticing prospect? "Frying is bad for us? Absolutely not!" said Professor Vincenzo Fogliano, who oversaw the study with Italian chef Giuseppe Daddio. "If it's fried in the correct way, a potato chip...can be an excellent nutritional product."
The pair arrived at this conclusion by studying the way that cooking oil - which is usually loaded with fat - is absorbed during the frying stage. Zucchini and eggplant, thought of as healthy, absorbed 30 per cent of the oil. Potatoes and pizza absorbed just five per cent.
Potatoes resisted the oil because they're full of starch, said Professor Fogliano. "A fundamental rule is that starch plays an important part in sealing the food being fried and reducing the oil absorption. The starch in potatoes....is particularly effective."
There's a caveat or two, however. "Attention must be paid to frozen or pre-fried products," said Professor Fogliano, who spoke to the Italian newspaper La Stampa. "In these cases, the quantity of food absorbed increases significantly."
Unfortunately, that describes 95 per cent of fries and chips, said the CEO of Melbourne's Lord of the Fries restaurants, Mark Koronczyk. "This is a European article, and this is how they cook their fries in Europe," he said. Down Under, "95 per cent of people selling fries use a frozen product...they're full of preservatives, they use beef tallow...they also use whey power."
Melanie McGrice, spokeswoman for the Dieticians Association of Australia. said the only good fries were home-made fries. "Chips can be made slightly healthier if you're cooking them at home," she said. "But they're still high in fat and there's not a lot of nutrition in them." Especially, she said, if the skin was removed.
COOKING HEALTHY CHIPS
- Cut them directly from potatoes
- Don't use frozen, pre-fried or re-fried chips
- Keep the skin on
- Use sunflower oil, which is low in saturated fat and high in good fats (monosaturated and polyunsaturated).