Is air frying healthy?
Air fryers are sold as a healthy alternative to deep fat frying, but do they live up to the claims? We asked Registered Nutritionist, Nicola Shubrook to explain the health benefits and drawbacks of air frying.
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What is an air fryer and how does it work?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food. The food is heated by convection which creates a crunchy, crispy exterior requiring minimal fat, making it both convenient and a lower fat method for cooking foods like chips and fried chicken.
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Top 5 health benefits of air frying
1. A lower fat method of cooking
Air fryers use significantly less oil than deep fat fryers, and a 2015 study demonstrated that food cooked using an air fryer were as a result substantially lower in fat. An air fryer does this by heating the food in hot air which contains fine oil droplets.
2. May help weight management
Deep-fried foods are both high in fat and calories, so swapping these foods for those cooked in an air fryer may help lower calorie intake, however, this does depend on how often frying ,as a cooking method, is employed in the diet.
3. Lower levels of acrylamide
There is some evidence that using an air fryer reduces a compound known as acrylamide by up to 90%, compared to deep fat frying. Acrylamide is a chemical substance that is formed when starchy foods, like potatoes, are cooked at high temperatures (above 120C). Acrylamide is a known carcinogen.
Read more: What is acrylamide and is it a cancer risk?
4. Air fryers may be safer in the kitchen
Deep frying involves heating a large deep pan of oil to a high temperature. This may pose a safety risk in the kitchen because hot oil may spill, splash or catch fire. Air fryers, when used in accordance with instructions, do not pose the same safety risks.
5. May preserve nutrients
Convection heat, such as that used in an air fryer may preserve certain nutrients during the cooking process, these include vitamin C as well as numerous protective plant compounds, called polyphenols.
Is air-frying safe for everyone?
Overall, air fryers are a healthier alternative to deep fat frying, but food cooked in an air fryer is still classed as a fried food. Fried food has been shown time and again to contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, so if you use an air fryer, use it as an occasional cooking method, rather than every day.
One example of a negative effect air frying may have on food, and on your health was illustrated by a study that showed cooking fatty varieties of fish such as sardines in an air fryer decreased the healthy fat content (poly-unsaturated fats) and slightly increased the cholesterol oxidation products, which may negatively affect cholesterol levels.
This article was reviewed on 19th November 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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