Are hash browns healthier than fries?

In this article, we will answer the question “Are hash browns healthier than fries?”, and how to make crispy hash browns? 

Are hash browns healthier than fries?

It all depends on the preparation method and the ingredients of the hash browns that determine whether they are healthier than fries or not. The main ingredients for both these snacks are potatoes, oil, and salt. The following parameters can be relied upon to check the healthiness of the hash browns. 

  1. If you did not fry your hash browns in oil and butter, your hash browns are considered healthy. Frying at controlled and moderate temperatures (180 °C or less) reduces the acrylamide concentration of potatoes up to 46% with respect to potatoes fried without temperature control. For the same temperature, roasted potatoes contained less acrylamide than fried potatoes. Not only is temperature control an important factor in acrylamide formation during frying, but the type of frying fat is also critical. The dissociation of the lactose present in butter into reduced sugars is suggested as an explanation for this high concentration in butter fried potatoes (2). 
  2. If you used a healthier oil like avocado or olive oil to fry your hash browns instead of cooking oil your hash browns have a superior nutritional profile. Specialists, based on studies, recommend that MUFA rich oils, including extra-virgin olive and avocado oils, should be utilized for industrial, restaurant-based and domestic frying practices instead because of their relatively high resistance against thermally-induced peroxidation (3).
  3. Hash browns containing little or no salt are also healthy especially for people with hypertension. A reduction in dietary sodium not only decreases the blood pressure and the incidence of hypertension, but is also associated with a reduction in morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases (4).
  4. Hash browns made with veggies such as peppers or onions provide more nutrients than regular hash browns and are a healthier pick than fries. Fruit and vegetables are generally viewed as being healthy and the World Health Organization made a clear statement that the intake of those products should be promoted (5).

However, according to studies, there is concern over potato products that are roasted, fried and baked due to the formation of acrylamide. Acrylamide is a probable carcinogen and is present at high concentrations in hash browns and fries. The most efficient way for lowering acrylamide contents in fried or roasted potato products is the use of potatoes containing less reducing sugar: for a given heat treatment, the amount of acrylamide formed is proportional to the content of fructose and glucose (1).

The importance of roasted or fried potato products (hash browns, French fries, potato chips) has been pointed out in. Frequent consumers of French fries (e.g. three portions per week) were calculated to receive 84% of their exposure to acrylamide from this product, assuming that the daily background exposure without potato products is around 10 g and no substantial amounts of hash browns or potato chips are eaten (1).

Crispy Hash Browns recipe 

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound Russet potatoes (2 small-to-medium), peeled if desired
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions 

  1. Peel and grate them on a  large-holed cheese grater. If you like, you can leave the skin on and scrub the potatoes before grating them. 
  2. Rinse the grated potatoes in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water. 
  3. Drain the potatoes and spread them on a clean tea towel or several paper towels. Fold the paper towel over the potatoes to make sure no moisture remains on the surface of the potatoes.
  4. Shift the grated potatoes to a bowl and season with salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  5. In a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet, heat some olive oil and sizzle the grated potatoes. Press the potatoes into an even layer in a skillet using a spatula. Let the potatoes cook for about 2 minutes. 
  6. Stir the potatoes and press them again into a single layer in the skillet. Cook for another 2 minutes. Continue doing this until the potatoes are crispy and golden. This should take another 4-8 minutes. 
  7. Transfer the hash browns onto a plate lined with paper towels. Let the paper towels absorb the excess oil from the hash browns. The subsequent batches after the first batch will naturally cook faster because of the already hot skillet.
  8. Season the hash browns with salt. Serve hot and enjoy. 

How to make healthy hash browns in an air fryer? 

Ingredients 

  • 12 ounces (325 grams) frozen shredded potatoes
  • sea salt (optional)

Instructions 

  1. Place the frozen shredded potatoes into the non-stick air fryer basket. If the basket is not completely non-stick or the holes are too big to hold the shredded potatoes above the basket, use parchment paper to line the bottom of the basket.
  2. Air fry the shredded potatoes at 400℉ for about 10 minutes.
  3. Check your hash browns for doneness. Flip the hash browns if needed, especially when the bottom of the basket is lined with parchment paper. 
  4. Air fry the hash browns for an additional 3-5 minutes or until they are crispy and golden. 
  5. Serve alongside your favorite condiment and enjoy.

Serving ideas 

You can serve your hash browns with condiments such as ketchup, BBQ sauce, spicy ketchup, sriracha, salsa, and mustard, etc. 

For seasoning, you can use salt and pepper, garlic salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder, or Trader Joe’s vegan no-chicken seasoning.

Are hash browns good for weight loss?

Hash browns are a filling food for people who are watching out for weight gain. Hash browns may reduce your carb cravings, thus, it is possible to help in reducing weight, however, studies in this subject are controversial. Research from single meal studies suggests that boiled potatoes are more satiating than equal calorie portions of other common carbohydrate-rich foods (e.g. rice, bread and pasta) (6).  This only applies if the hash browns do not contain any fattening ingredients such as oil, butter, or salt. 

In a 12-week, 3-arm, randomized control trial, 90 overweight men and women were randomly assigned to one of three dietary interventions: (1) low GI, calorie reduced diet (500 kcal/d); (2) high GI, calorie reduced diet (500 kcal/d); (3) control group (counseled to follow basic dietary guidance including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid). All three groups were instructed to consume five to-seven servings of potatoes per week (approximately one potato per day) and were provided with a variety of recipes for potato dishes. Modest weight loss was observed in all three  groups (~2% of initial body weight) with no significant difference in weight loss between the groups, likely due to the fact that the “control” group spuriously reduced their energy intake to levels on par with the two intervention groups (6).

Air-fried hash browns made with minimal spices and more veggies are the perfect snack option for people who are on a weight loss journey, however, the temperature must be controlled and not be high, to avoid the formation of acrylamide (1). This is because potatoes have a high satiety index, almost 3 times that of white bread. However, additional research, particularly clinical trials are needed to address the role of potatoes in weight management (6).

However, you cannot eat McDonald’s hash browns and expect your weight to go down. You will have to exclude all the high-calorie ingredients from your hash browns for them to work as a weight-loss-friendly food. 

Is it bad to eat hash browns every day? 

No, it is not bad to eat hash browns every day. But you need to be mindful of the serving size and the ingredients used in making hash browns. As mentioned earlier, the preparation of the dish and the type of potato used is crucial to determine whether it is unhealthy or not (1). If you eat hash browns soaking in oil and brimming with salt daily, you cannot expect to get away without weight gain or chronic diseases. 

Other FAQs about Hash browns that you may be interested in.

What is the best way to cook frozen hash brown patties?

How to fry frozen hash brown?

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “Are hash browns healthier than fries?”, and how to make crispy hash browns?

References

  1. Biedermann-Brem, Sandra, et al. How much reducing sugar may potatoes contain to avoid excessive acrylamide formation during roasting and baking?. Euro Food Res Technol, 2003, 217, 369-373.
  2. Guillén, S., et al. Effectiveness of a temperature control system in home induction hobs to reduce acrylamide formation during pan frying. Ital. J. Food Sci, 2017, 100980.
  3. Wann, Angela I., et al. Comparative 1H NMR-based chemometric evaluations of the time-dependent generation of aldehydic lipid oxidation products in culinary oils exposed to laboratory-simulated shallow frying episodes: differential patterns observed for omega-3 fatty acid-containing soybean oils. Foods, 2021, 10, 2481.
  4. Grillo A, Salvi L, Coruzzi P, Salvi P, Parati G. Sodium Intake and Hypertension. Nutrients. 2019, 11, 1970. 
  5. Waterlander, Wilma E., et al. The effects of a 25% discount on fruits and vegetables: results of a randomized trial in a three-dimensional web-based supermarket. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 2012, 9, 1-12.
  6. Beals, Katherine A. Potatoes, nutrition and health. Am J Potato Res, 2019, 96, 102-110.