Chips in an air fryer

Is air frying healthy?

Air fryers are sold as a healthy alternative to deep-frying, but do they live up to the claims? A nutritionist explains the health benefits and drawbacks of air frying.

An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food, by convection, to create a crunchy, crispy exterior, making it convenient for foods such as chips or fried chicken. They have been seen as a healthier alternative to deep-fat fryers – but are they?

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Air fryers do use a lot less oil than deep fat fryers, and a 2015 study demonstrated that food cooked using an air fryer were substantially lower in fat. Less fat also means fewer calories.

However, they do still have some negative effects on food, and on health. For example, one study showed that cooking sardines in an air fryer decreased the good fat content (poly-unsaturated fats) and slightly increased the cholesterol oxidation products, which can negatively affect cholesterol levels. However, some of this negative effect was further reduced by adding parsley and chives to the sardines, which act as natural antioxidants.

There is also 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, such as potatoes, are cooked at high temperatures (above 120C) and it is a known carcinogen.

Read more: What is acrylamide and is it a cancer risk?

Overall, air fryers are a healthier alternative to deep fat frying, but cooking food 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 on occasion as part of a balanced diet, rather than every day.

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This article was published on 6th July 2020.

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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