Many people, when getting their first air fryer, are interested in the health benefits of air frying food rather than deep frying. It's true that, in general, air frying is going to be a healthier way to cook food. But why is this the case?
We're going to delve into some of the reasons cooking in an air fryer may have a host of benefits to your health and wellness.
How Air Fryers Work: A Quick Overview
First, it's important to understand how air frying works.
One of the main advantages of air fryers is that they allow you to cook food to a crisp, delicious texture without the use of a lot of cooking oil. This works similarly to a convection oven: Air frying uses rapid hot air circulation and heat to cook food.
The result is a nicely browned exterior and a cooked-through interior. While the texture might resemble that of deep fried foods, it won't be as greasy thanks to the use of minimal oil.
Nutrition Retention in an Air Fryer
Air fried foods tend to retain a lot of their nutrition, much as you would expect from baking in a conventional oven. In general, the less time it takes to cook a food, the more nutrients will be preserved.
There's an exception for boiling since using water will dilute the nutrients, and you'll end up pouring many of them down the drain.
Food science says that a food's enzymes are affected by cooking, and many vitamins in vegetables are lost from cooking.
Air frying cooks food quickly, which can help preserve the vitamins in vegetables and other foods. Of course, you shouldn't overcook your food with any cooking methods, including air frying.
Air Fried Foods and Calorie Intake
Air fryers require no oil or significantly less oil than deep frying, and this can result in a healthy alternative to deep frying.
Benefits of Using Less Oil
There are a variety of reasons to use less oil when cooking. Here are some of them:
You'll reduce the amount of fat in the meal. This can help you control your weight or reduce weight gain from eating fried foods.
Less oil provides heart health benefits. If your choices are to eat foods cooked in a deep fryer vs air fried foods, you'll be reducing your risk of heart disease by choosing the air frying method.
Using less oil can lower your cholesterol levels. This can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Again, this is good for weight management and weight loss.
Air Fryers and Weight Management
While you shouldn't start any new diet without talking to your doctor, it's generally safe to switch from deep fried foods to air fried foods in an effort to reduce your calories and your weight. With that being said, it's unlikely that such a simple change will lead to significant weight loss.
Some other tips for combining air fryer use with other healthy practices include:
- Choose a higher intake of fruits and vegetables and a lower intake of sugary, fatty, or starchy foods.
- Add some type of movement or exercise to your day in accordance with what your doctor says is safe for you.
- Avoid adding batters, heavy sauces, and other high-fat and high-calorie coatings or gravies.
- Try to drink more water and fewer sugar-containing beverages like sodas and sweet coffee drinks.
Deep Fried Foods vs. Air Fried Foods
Since air frying is often seen as a healthy alternative to deep frying, you might be interested in a comparison of what to expect when you switch from deep frying foods to air frying the same foods.
The main differences will be in how the foods taste, their texture, and some of the heart health benefits.
When you air fry foods, you might be surprised by the taste difference. Since you'll use much less oil with this method than you will when deep fat frying the same foods, the taste of the oil will be much less pronounced, and the taste of the food will shine through more strongly.
However, you may also find that deep fried foods have a more concentrated flavor than food cooked by air frying. This is because the oil used in a deep fryer seals in some of the flavor. Air fried foods will have a more natural flavor, and they will often be less concentrated.
Oil fried foods will usually have a crisp, crunchy texture. This is due to the high amount of oil used in the cooking process. The outside might be golden brown. In some cases, deep fried foods will be soggy if there's too much oil absorbed.
Air fried foods, on the other hand, will be a little lighter brown and less crunchy. It should still be crisp due to the high heat cooking methods, but the crunch won't be as intense. There won't be any sogginess, since no vegetable oil will be absorbed during cooking.
You might find that deep fryers produce foods with a higher moisture content since the moisture will often be sealed in by the oil. Air frying results in a slightly drier texture.
Heart Health Benefits
In general, air fried food and food made with other cooking methods that don't use large amounts of oil will be a heart healthier option than deep fried food.
In the case of an air fryer, the circulating hot air will take the place of oil in creating crispness, but it won't add fat or calories to the food.
Potential Health Concerns When Air Frying
Although air fried foods are often considered healthier than those cooked in traditional deep fryers, there are some health concerns to be aware of.
One is that air fryers usually contain a nonstick coating that, when heated to high temperatures, could release potentially toxic fumes into the air.
The good news is that this isn't really an issue unless the temperature gets to at least 500 degrees, which is unlikely in an air fryer. To be safe, it's best to keep your air frying temperature below that.
Another health concern is the development of acrylamide, which is a compound that can form when cooking potatoes and other starchy foods. It can raise the cancer risk, and it's found that air frying, along with roasting, frying, and baking, can cause this compound to develop.
First, it's important to understand that dietary acrylamide is actually more common in deep fried foods like French fries. So, by choosing air frying, you're actually negating some of that increased risk.
Secondly, soaking your starchy vegetables in filtered water for 15 minutes can reduce the amount of acrylamide that forms.
Finally, don't burn or char your starchy vegetables. Eating charred foods is potentially a cause of chronic diseases. This isn't limited to fried potatoes, French fries, or air fried foods.
Making Informed Choices
In summary, air fryers are often seen as healthy when compared with deep frying. Heated air is a healthier way to cook foods than using hot oil. If you're interested in nutrition science and in maintaining your health, you might consider the use of an air fryer over the use of a deep fryer.
With that being said, it's important to be aware of the potential health effects of cooking foods in the air fryer. The potentially harmful chemicals that can be produced with this cooking method aren't something to be ignored.
You can generally mitigate the risks by not cooking at too high of a temperature and by soaking starchy veggies prior to cooking.
If you already have an air fryer or you're thinking about getting one, simply follow those safety guidelines to keep your food as healthy as possible and enjoy the benefits of switching to air frying as one of your common cooking methods.
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