These golden sticks of warm, salty and crispy deliciousness have been a staple component of the fast food meal for decades. It is almost impossible to turn down a side order of fries when their tantalizing aroma practically radiates from the restaurant.
However, America’s love affair with french fries has been a major contributor to a slew of the chronic health conditions we now face. They are high in unhealthy fat and sodium, spike blood sugar with their high glycemic load (they are white potatoes, don’t forget) and they contain one of the highest sources of the carcinogen, acrylamide, in our food.
Even a small serving from a fast food chain contains anywhere from nine to 20 grams of unhealthy fat, and 160 to over 700 milligrams of sodium. But let’s be honest: who really orders just a small?
If that weren’t enough to keep Americans from munching on an average of four servings of french fries every week, their carcinogen content should be a deterrent. When foods containing both carbohydrates and the amino acid asparagine are prepared at high temperatures (such as deep-frying), they produce a substance called acrylamide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, acrylamide is a “probable human carcinogen” which can cause “central and peripheral nervous system damage.”
Potatoes contain high levels of asparagine, meaning that deep-frying them at high temperatures produces very high levels of acrylamide, and that they are more than likely the main source of this toxin in the American diet.
For many American families that were raised on a “burger with fries,” giving up these golden crisps may be practically unthinkable, even with their laundry list of unhealthy side-effects. Luckily, there is an alternative.
Roasting root vegetables is an excellent, not to mention highly nutritious and delicious, alternative to the classic fry. Not only is roasting a far healthier cooking method than deep-frying, but incorporating several varieties of these hardy veggies provides numerous nutritional benefits.
Sweet potatoes and yams carry a lower glycemic load than the white potato, and boast high doses of potassium, vitamin K and manganese.
Parsnips are yet another excellent source of vitamin A, as they are closely related to the carrot. They’re also rich in vitamin C, folate and magnesium.
Rutabagas provide high doses of vitamin C as well as the essential mineral key in immune function, zinc.
Roasting root vegetables is easy. Purchase only organic vegetables, as many of the nutrients are located in or very near the skin. Only peel them if you are unable to buy organic. You’ll want to cut a variety of the vegetables into your desired shape. Be sure to maintain uniformity so all vegetables cook consistently.
Lightly coating them with olive oil will do the trick, but for added flavor, incorporate your favorite herbs and spices. Onion and garlic enhance natural flavors and spices like rosemary, nutmeg or thyme will add a little something extra.
One of the benefits of roasting vegetables is the ability to customize and experiment with your dish. Dress the vegetables in a favorite marinade or spice them up with a combination of peppers and spices.
Once they are prepared to your liking, line them in a single layer on a pan in a 400 degree oven. Cooking time will vary depending on size and shape. Thirty minutes should be adequate but they can be cooked longer if necessary.
There’s no denying that fast food french fries are a tasty treat, but these healthy alternatives are not only more flavorful, but pack a nutritional punch that the fried potato can’t come close to duplicating.
The Alternative Daily