French Fries versus Almond

French fries

A recent study has found that snacking on French fries instead of protein-packed almonds won’t nudge the scale in the short term, but does that  make the decision equally as healthy? 

Research funded by The Alliance of Potato Research and Education unveiled these health risks are dependent on the quantity of french fries or potatoes consumed. There is no statistically significant evidence of differential effects between consuming a typical 300 calorie serving of french fries daily and a 300 calorie serving of almonds daily when it comes to weight gain or markers of Type 2 diabetes risk. So should we ditch the almonds and feast on the fries?

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers randomly split a group of 165 adults (average age 30; 68% women) into three groups for 30 days and assigned them to eat a daily 300-calorie portion of one of the following:

  • almonds, roasted and salted (about 1/3 cup)
  • plain French fries (medium serving)
  • French fries seasoned with herbs and spices (medium serving).

Researchers provided participants with 30 single-day portions of their food item, telling them to incorporate it into their daily diet but offering no additional instructions to change diet or activity levels to offset the 300-calorie intake.

The amount of fat in participants’ bodies was measured, along with total weight, blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1C (a longer-term reflection of blood sugar levels) at both the start and end of the month.  After 30 days, changes in the amount of body fat and total body weight were similar among the French fry and almond groups. So were glucose and insulin levels measured through blood tests after fasting.

There was one piece of bad news for the potato eaters. Despite the insignificant weight changes and diabetes markers, almonds resulted in lower post-meal glucose and insulin responses than potatoes; potatoes with spices had an intermediate response.

It is understandable that almonds would have little metabolic effect on glucose; their glycemic index is 0 – they are mostly fiber and fat. Potatoes, on the other hand, have a glycemic index of 50. But the impact of potatoes with spice was between those extremes. 

At the end of the study, changes in body composition, body weight, fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels were comparable across the french fry and almond intervention groups and were not clinically significant. The results show two food items identified previously for opposite associations with health outcomes had no differences in effects on the health outcomes we measured.

But to wrap up a calorie is not a calorie. More needs to be learned about how this comparison impacts long term health.

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