Are French Fries Bad for You?

I get asked this question a lot, especially on road trips.

There are several reasons why you, your athletes, or your children should NOT eat french fries.

In contrast, there are reason why you should eat it. One reason is they are yummy with ketchup or mayonnaise.

Back in my Montreal days, I recall the owner of a popular trendy pub on Peel Street who would not allow his employees to eat french fries. Of course, his employees were all very fit or very good looking waitresses and barmaids. His rational was, “It makes their legs fat”.

While he might be sued for sexism, he did have the right idea, just the wrong reasons.

Here are 3 reasons why French Fires are bad for you. This applies to everyone, and not just women.

1) French Fries are Made of Bad Carbohydrates.

Sure, you think all complex carbs are treated equal. You claim it’s not a simple sugar, right?


Different carbs have differ glycemic indexes. The Canadian Diabetes web site has a good explanation for this and ranks certain foods.

I like to point out that the Glycemic Index is simply a general guideline. Everyone has a different blood glucose responses to different foods, so your mileage may vary (YMMV in Internet lingo).

These foods are considered having a high glycemic index are:

  • French fries
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Baked white potato
  • Parsnips
  • Instant rice
  • Corn Flake
  • Rice Krispies
  • Cheerios
  • White Bagels
  • Soda crackers
  • Jellybeans
  • Watermelon
  • Dried dates

You don’t want to BONK at work or school at 2pm after a high glycemic lunch, right? So in general, aim for whole grains with a lower glycemic index.

Ironically enough, the sweet potato has a much lower glycemic index than white potatoes. Maybe that’s why they serve Yam fries at my local pub?

Simple sugars, and some complex carbohydrates, causes a surge in insulin production. It is possible to develop a resistance to insulin when you continually spike your insulin levels. This constant spike has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Thus I firmly believe controlling insulin is the key to weight loss, controlling your appetite, and muscle production… among other good reasons.

2) French Fries may be Deep Fried in Trans Fats

If you haven’t heard that Trans Fats can cause heart disease, then you’ve been living under a rock.

Trans fats are derived from unsaturated fats is found in margarines or vegetable shortening in the “solidifying process” (liquid state to solid state). The food label to watch out for is “partially hydrogenated”.

These “bad fats” have been shown to raise levels of “bad” cholesterol or Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL). These saturated fats also stay in the body longer and raise circulating blood triglycerides that lower the “good” cholesterol or High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).

Trans fats also makes the platelets in their blood stickier. Platelets are part of the blot clotting mechanisms. These sticky little platelets could form clots that attach to the walls of arteries that form plaque and cause heart disease later in life.

3) French fries have high levels of Acrylamide, reported to be a possible cancer-causing substance.

I won’t get into this topic in detail as it is covered in depth from this article from

Acrylamide is a chemical formed when frying, roasting, grilling or baking carbohydrate-rich foods at temperatures above 120°C. Acrylamide is thus found in a number of foods, such as bread, crisps, French fries and coffee. Tobacco smoking also generates substantial amounts of acrylamide.

“Animal tests have shown acrylamide to be a carcinogen, but until recently no studies have demonstrated a link between acrylamide in foods and cancer in humans. Ours is the first epidemiological study using biological markers for measuring acrylamide exposure, and the first to report a positive association between acrylamide and breast cancer,” says Henrik Frandsen, senior scientist at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.


So there you have it.

3 reasons to avoid eating French Fries. But it doesn’t mean never to eat French Fries, just watch the amount you eat in moderation.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Thanks. The Glycemic Index is the one to seriously look at given the fact that it directly makes us confront and alter our personal diets to keep our circulatory system healthy. I have had to convert to a low glycemic plan this past year and I have never felt stronger. Pretty good for me considering I have maintained a low calorie, low processed food diet my entire life. A designed intake plan of the proper fruits, vegetables with lots of certain proteins = better physical workouts, higher and prolonged levels of mental awareness. I do, however, take 6 different types of vitamins and supplements. The other side of the coin is: 1. French fries make us feel good when we eat them. 2. It’s the perfect lousy reason to use those forbidden salt shakers. 3. It’s one of the all-important members of that famous team, “Hamburger, Fries and a Coke. Please.”

  • @Fred – what really bugs me is 50 years ago, a regular portion of fries was probably around 20-25 sticks. Today, it’s the size of a movie theater popcorn bucket!

  • […] A diet of 30-60-10 is not a common one. Other Carb-Protein-Fat ratios include 70-20-10, 50-25-25, 40-30-30, 10-45-45. Here are some books that go in detail of recent “fad” diets” First, I was a big fan of the Robert Haas’ Eat To Win: The Sports Nutrition Bible diet back in the 80’s when I was in College. Also known as the Martina Navratilova diet, it followed the same guidelines as the the Pritkin diet, which recommended 70% carbohydrate, 20% protein and 10% fat. 70% Carbs you say? After all, I was training at least 3 hours a day. Second, now Dr Haas has a new book called Eat to Win for Permanent Fat Loss: The Revolutionary Fat-Burning Diet for Peak Mental and Physical Performance and Optimum Health, he created a Mediterr-Asian diet that combines the best and healthiest aspects of diets from the regions where people live the longest. His approach features a ratio of 50 percent carbohydrates, which includes grains, fruits, and vegetables; 25 percent protein; and 25 percent fat. A third diet, the extremely popular The Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently : Reset Your Genetic Code : Prevent Disease : Achieve Maximum Physical Performance by Dr. Barry Sears, has the ideal ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is 40-30-30%, respectively. The forth diet is the popular The South Beach Diet: A Doctor’s Plan for Fast and Lasting Weight Loss starts off like a low-carb diet, but later focuses only on low GI (Glycemic Index) and un-refined carbohydrates. For more information on Glycemic Index and your response to different foods and your blood glucose responses, read Are French Fries Bad for You? […]

  • I’ve been going to school at college level for 5 years now and don’t judge me stupid ,but I never knew fries were bad for you ,my school serves them everyday ,and I along with most of the entire school, bought them maybe 4 days a week, we do have p.e, but I just really never knew fries were bad. It’s just how it was growing up, fries were lunch ,and the number one thing you would get as a packed lunch…so…luckily though I know now, so I try to limit it because I don’t like the idea of a heart attack or any illnesses that pull you down in life ,I don’t think alot of people know how bad they are and I don’t blame them cus I didn’t even know myself. I for one figured since they were potatoes, it wasn’t so bad(I’m a general person not really a health centrist so I don’t know alot of those facts)but it’s the oil…what if you baked them in a bit of oil would that lower the fat percent even a little?

  • This is absurd. French fries are absolutely healthy, in general; they contain high levels of potassium, a mineral in which most diets are deficient and which is notoriously difficult to supplement from non-food sources.

    All your warnings are full of ifs, mays, and coulds, but potassium is absolutely in french fries and is absolutely needed.

    The glycemic index of french fries is lowered by the oil that’s been absorbed. The only reason some foods have higher or lower GIs is the proportion of carbs to other stuff: the lower the proportion of carbohydrates, the slower the carbs are absorbed. Eating anything else with your french fries will change the GI of your whole meal, which is what is important — not the GI of each individual food.

    Dozens of studies have found no link between acrylamide consumption and various cancers. Sure, acrylamide is a deadly neurotoxin, but it also decomposes in acidic environments (like your stomach). As of yet, there is no reason to believe dietary acrylamide from french fries poses any significant health risk.

    I eat french fries every day specifically because they are healthy. The high potassium levels have brought my naturally high blood pressure down to near average levels. To suggest that french fries aren’t healthy — or are even unhealthy — is absurd. They’re just potatoes, fat, and salt — two of which are essential for human life and one of which is one of the cheapest and highest sources of an essential mineral.