Are air fryers healthy, or are we just fooling ourselves? Fried food without all the oil sounds too good to be true. Here are the pros and cons.
Are Air Fryers Healthy? Here’s that Registered Dieticians Say
Let’s not minimize the miracle that is air frying: It’s having your (funnel) cake and eating it too. “Air fryers are one of the best ways to get the same texture and taste of fried foods without the unhealthiness that comes along with them,” registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) Bansari Acharya said. “It preserves the nutrients in the food items, as it doesn’t expose it to hot oils. It also reduces the amount of trans and saturated fats in foods, reducing the risk for heart disease.”
When compared to deep frying, air frying is clearly the healthier option. That’s because deep frying involves submerging food into a vat of oil, while air frying simply uses heat and a powerful fan to efficiently and evenly cook the food in your fryer. It requires zero oil, though some can be helpful.
“Since [food prepared in an air fryer] requires minimal cooking oils, [the food] has a lot less fat than traditional frying methods,” RDN Morgyn Clair told HuffPost. “The healthiest way to air fry is to use minimal excess oils. Use just enough so your food doesn’t stick.”
The amount of oil is the key to air frying in a healthy manner. “We need fat in our diet for hormone regulation, for energy and many other reasons,” RDN Gisela Belen Bouvier said.
But using too much oil in an air fryer is a surefire way to ruin your next meal.
“The air fryer simply won’t work if you’re coating it in too much breading/oil, so this is generally a moot point ― you’ll wind up with just a sad, soggy vegetable mush,” registered dietician Jaclyn London said. “While you could theoretically add calories from saturated fat to whatever you’re making, it’s highly unlikely that it would be palatable or cooked evenly. All things being equal, air frying typically retains nutrient density [without adding to the] energy density (calorie content).” Deep frying often leaves you with lots of the ‘frying’ and less of the original goodness!”
Air Frying Can Affect the Food’s Nutrients
Some foods actually become more nutritious when they’re air fried, while others lose nutrition.
The type of food you’re air frying can make a difference when it comes to its nutritional value. Certain foods can turn more nutritious when air fried.
When cooked with convection heat, resistant starches in sweet potatoes, yams, corn, beans and legumes are easier to digest for most people and therefore improve the bioavailability of nutrients,” registered dietician Ella Davar said.
Other foods, like meat and cheeses, can become less nourishing when they’re air fried. “Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) form when foods are exposed to high temperatures and dry cooking methods (like air frying),” registered dietician Karen Smith said. “AGEs accelerate the aging process, and are associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Foods that are both protein- and fat-rich, like meats and cheeses, form the highest levels of AGEs when cooked at high temperatures. While AGEs also form when carbohydrate-rich foods, like potatoes, are browned, the AGE levels are far less than those in cooked animal foods.”
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