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It’s the most popular appliance of the year and you’ve probably heard the rave reviews. Air fryers. They are billed as the healthier way to fry foods, and in 2020, it was estimated that 40% of US households had them. But what exactly are the differences from deep-frying? Is all the hype warranted or is it just a bunch of hot air? That actually depends on a couple of factors. So here’s some things to consider.
Air fryers work like a mini convection oven. These countertop appliances allow hot air to circulate quickly and evenly to give a nice crispy texture to the food inside them. The most obvious benefits are lower fat and calorie counts. Instead of totally drowning food into hot oil like deep-frying, air-frying needs just a tablespoon to achieve a similar texture and taste. Air fryers use 50 times less oil and significantly cut down on fat content. In fact, one study found that “air-frying resulted in a final product with substantially less fat but a similar color and moisture content.”
In addition to less fat and calories, air fryers also may be beneficial in other ways. Cutting high-calorie deep-fried foods is a great strategy for those interested in losing weight. Also, harmful chemical compounds can be avoided by switching to air-fryers. Probable carcinogens like acrylamide form in carbohydrate-rich foods during high-heat cooking methods like frying. One study found that air-frying reduced acrylamide by 90% compared to traditional deep-frying (11Trusted Source). Avoiding these dangerous compounds all together seems like a sound approach to a healthier lifestyle.
So, case closed, get an air-fryer and fire it up, right? Well, not exactly. Just because something is better for you than deep-frying doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. It’s important to remember that air-frying with oil is similar to frying or roasting foods. And that means there are a number of health risks associated with it. Like heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and certain cancers. While specific research on air fryers is limited, it’s recommended to cut back on any type of fried food in general. But if you’re going to fry food with any method, James Roche, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at St. Mary’s Medical Center, reminds us “If cooking with fat, olive oil is usually your best bet. It is high in omega-3 fats (which provide numerous benefits to both physical and mental health) and olive oil is stable, meaning that it does not break down (producing harmful byproducts) unless heated to temperatures well above what most of us will ever cook with.”
Luckily, food can taste delicious using a number of other low-risk cooking methods. Instead of frying, try bringing out flavor with boiling, stewing or steaming to avoid the negative health effects.