These days, air fryers are all the rage. Air fryers are constantly popping up on social media, and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. But are they truly healthy? Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD, Community Dietitian, Chelsea Hospital has the answer.
Air Frying vs. Traditional Frying
Using an air fryer is healthier than traditional frying. Air fryers use hot-air technology to cook food. Newer ovens that have a convection setting use a similar process: Fans blow hot air around the food. Air fryers produce a crispy exterior to the food, with little or no oil, making this frying method healthier than traditional frying.
If you use a deep fryer or pan to fry foods, you are bathing those foods in hot oil. Deep-fried foods are more flavorful, but they have more calories.
A Brief Word about Fats
Some fats are essential to give your body energy and support cell function. They help keep your body warm and produce important hormones. Fats also provide nutrients and protect your organs.
There are two major categories of fats: saturated (unhealthy) and unsaturated (healthy). Dieticians recommend getting 10 percent or less of your daily calories from saturated fats.
Why is frying unhealthy?
Fats are more energy-dense than carbohydrates and proteins. If you consume a lot of fat calories, you can gain weight and potentially become overweight — which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Foods that people deep fry absorb the saturated fats that are used when frying, making frying problematic for a person trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In the process of heating oil to a very high temperature when frying and grilling, carcinogens can result, which are then consumed with the fried foods. Do not eat any foods that blacken while frying or grilling. Chemicals that are thought to be probable human carcinogens are produced when food is blackened.
Features to Look for in an Air Fryer
If you still love and crave fried foods, there are ways to make it a little better for you – both for your health and your wallet. Consider how often you will use this countertop appliance, which is not limited to frying foods. For example, you can make hard-boiled eggs, bake salmon and other meats, prepare desserts, and reheat leftovers.
- Consider the price of an air fryer before purchase. Prices can vary significantly.
- If you have an instant pot, there is an accessory you can buy that air fries, so you wouldn’t have to purchase another kitchen appliance.
- Review sites of air fryers say that consumers should consider the wattage needed.
- If an air fryer has pre-settings and you plan to use the air fryer frequently, you may prefer a model with more settings.
- Dishwasher-safe baskets are great for easy clean up.
Alternatives to Frying
There are several healthier alternatives to frying your foods.
- Sautéing: Preparing foods this way is significantly healthier than deep fat frying. Sautéing uses a very small amount of oil.
- Steaming and Boiling: Heating liquids to cook foods does not require the use of oils. From a nutrient standpoint, it better to steam than to boil.
- Roasting and Baking: Both methods of cooking are a great alternative, especially if you add seasonings to the foods you are making. If you are roasting a fatty food, such as beef, be sure to provide a way to catch the drippings so the food isn’t sitting in its own fat.
- Broiling: This method browns and crisps food at a high temperature for a short period of time. It is often used for a finishing or beginning touch, while the food is cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Be aware that you can char food if you over broil, which then produces carcinogens.
Your takeaway? Using an air fryer is a healthier way to produce fried foods, but overall, it is healthier not to fry any foods.
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