Are Air Fryers Healthy?
There’s no doubt that people love fried food. That insatiable first bite into the crispy texture, the juicy tender inside locked and loaded with flavor, and the iconic look that fried food has captivates our hearts, and our taste buds. There is also no doubt that fried food is not really the healthiest choice of foods for your body. Deep fried foods in your typical oil dip fryer will increase the calorie and trans fats of whatever is being fried. The NIH explains that when you fry food in oil, the food will lose water and absorb fat thus increasing its calorie count. Additionally, frying foods are usually done over very high temperatures thus causing hydrogenation which is the chemical and structural change that occurs when unsaturated fats turn into trans fats. The NIH, Ne England Journal of Medicine, as well as many other major institutions link trans fats with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Furthermore, most fried foods are cooked with processed vegetable or seed oils that are less expensive and usually contain more trans fats than oils like olive oil or avocado oil. Acrylamide, which is a known toxic substance and carcinogenic if ingested at high levels, are also found in fried foods that are high in starch and/or cooked in oils that have a high amount of polyunsaturated fats per the NIH and Wiley peer reviewed studies. There’s an easy general rule of 3 healthy oil choices which are coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. The studies continue that almost all other oils yield high amounts of polyunsaturated fats and create acrylamide when exposed to higher temperatures. I speculate that these more expensive oils are not used when making our French fries from our favorite fast-food restaurants.
For lovers of fried food, this information can be disheartening. However, with modern science, knowledge and innovation, our hero of the story emerges. Welcome the Air Fryer. Air Fryers hit the scene in 2010 and have been offering a healthy alternative to deep fried foods while perfecting and enhancing the technology along the way. Research by the NPD Group shows 40% of American families already own an air fryer. It is easy to see why more and more people are finding their way to this healthier option and enjoying convenient air fryer meals that are good for health, taste delicious, and easy to clean.
How Air Fryers Work
Air fryers use a convection-like process to heat and cook your food. It allows you to roast, bake, and grill. You can even “Air Fry” your meals with an air fryer in a much healthier alternative than deep fryers. Essentially, air fryers have a mechanism that will heat the air, then air intakes and fans will circulate that heated air rapidly throughout the cooking chamber with evenly distributed temperatures and less fat. You will notice holes in the top and sides of the cooking chamber as well as holes in the food basket of your air fryer. These holes allow for circulation of the heated air and engineered specifically for that function. The evenly distributed heat and circulation of the air will cook the contents of your basket evenly with a nicely crisp exterior and tender juicy inside while using less oil and greatly reducing the grease. The NIH explains that this is called a “nonenzymatic” browning reaction since the machine uses high temperature air, absent the enzyme, in which this case would be oil (this is the simple explanation and is also known as the “Maillard Reaction”).
Functioning an Air Fryer is quite simple. It usually requires setting a temperature and a timer, pressing start, and then sit back and relax until its done. Air fryers also have a nice non-stick finish and easy to wipe down while the reduced amount of grease and lower fat content will also help making cleaning a breeze. There are not that many components to an air fryer which also helps keep maintenance low.
The Health Benefits of Air Fried Foods
Health experts strongly agree that you get better healthy meals from an air fryer vs a deep fryer. Air fryers on average cut the number of calories about 60-80% from your traditional deep-frying methods. When compared to other regular cooking, the Air Fryer does not add any extra calories. In fact, it is the adding of oils and choice of added ingredients that contribute to the amount of extra calories to your whatever you are cooking.
Air Fryers also reduces the amount of acrylamide (as noted earlier) by up to 90%. As explained by the FDA, acrylamide is a compound that occurs from a chemical reaction during high temperature cooking between sugars and asparagine, an amino acid. The study finds acrylamide to be carcinogenic in animals when exposed to high doses and offers recommendations for consumers and manufacturers about ways to reduce acrylamide in foods. The NIH provides a study done on acrylamide in fried potatoes and concludes that using an air fryer will reduce these acrylamides by about 80-90%. Kind of makes you think twice when cooking with certain oils and how much to use regardless of your cooking method.
If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you’re probably aware that many will be reusing their frying oil. Deep fried oil does absorb flavors from the food and can transfer those flavors to other foods, however, along with absorbing those flavors, it also absorbs some of the nutrients in the form of antioxidants from the food as well. It won’t take many uses before the frying oil begins to break down and congeal into a thicker more consistent substance with darker color. It may save them money, but only enhances the unhealthy aspects of deep-fried foods like fried chicken wings. This alone is a pretty valid reason for avoiding fast food. An Air fryer will brilliantly cook your food and it will not lose any nutrients as it does with deep frying.
In summary, the health benefits of an air fryer.
There are many health benefits of an air fryer. This includes:
-Reduces calories and trans fats which promote a healthier diet and helps with weight loss and cardiovascular health overall.
-Reduces the amount of unhealthy compounds like acrylamide, a known cancer-causing agent at high levels.
-Less stress from messy oils and deep-frying pots and machines which are a pain in the you know where when its cleanup time. Air fryers are remarkably easy to clean.
Making Healthy Food Choices When Air Frying
Eating healthy is a lifestyle. In reality, using an air fryer can be extremely beneficial to your health, but like all things, moderation is key. If you’re eating frozen fries and chicken nuggets every day from the air fryer, you are not eating healthy. Air fryers are perfect tools for making food from scratch that won’t require much work or preparation. Try cooking a lightly breaded chicken breast or rotisserie in your air fryer. Experiment with different healthy air fryer recipes containing your favorite foods, like various veggies and sweet potatoes. Avoid using heavy liquid in your air fryer, it will break your machine. If your recipe calls for a light coating of oil, I suggest only using olive, coconut, or avocado oils, as they are virtually the only healthy options for cooking oils and they all have a good smoke point for cooking. Looking to read more about air fryers, or other kitchen appliances we offer? Then check out our post that answers the question Can you put Aluminum Foil in an Air Fryer?