When you’re on the hunt for a healthy food preparation method, it’s almost impossible to avoid the topic of air fryers. Ever since these hit the spotlight a handful of years ago, people have been raving about how much they love them, and how they enjoy the chance for more healthy cooking. But is this really the best option for the nutrition conscious home chef? It’s a good idea to take a closer look before you throw all your food into the basket.
Why Air Fryers Feel Like a Healthy Food Preparation Method
It’s easy to see why air fryers seem like the kind of small appliance that could solve all your problems as a healthy food preparation method. After all, there are few foods that are more likely to satisfy an entire family’s worth of meal preferences than foods that are traditionally deep fried.
We all love French fries, crispy fried chicken that is still juicy in its center, and other foods usually dunked deep into hot oil to achieve their distinct flavors.
However, the fat and calories, among other nutritional issues that come with these foods are a high cost to pay. Research has linked the use of cooking on that way with a notably higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain kinds of cancer.
Since air fryers promise the same texture, taste, and appearance of deep-fried foods but through a healthy food preparation method, it’s not difficult to see why everyone is hopping on board. Those same favorite family-pleasing meals are being served up without the massive hit of fats and calories.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
These hefty countertop appliances are essentially a new design for a convection oven. They’re usually either square or rounded and allow you to add your food to a basket that slides out. You have the choice to toss your foods – chopped potatoes, zucchini or eggplant slices, sweet potato fries, chicken nuggets and more – in a it of oil if you want it.
Once you slide the basket in, a fan moves heated air of up to 400ºF around the food just as a convection oven would do. That circulating air cooks the exterior of the food first, making it possible to achieve that desired crispiness while the inside remains soft. This mimics the way deep frying would cook food, though it uses air instead of oil. Moreover, as the food cooks and grease drips away, it falls off the food, out of the basket and into a catcher below.
Air Fryers Are a Healthy Food Preparation Method for Fats and Calories
You can cook nearly anything in an air fryer that you’d usually fry in oil. This does indeed make it a healthy food preparation method, provided you’re not serving up mozza sticks at every meal. Keep in mind that just because you’re not cooking it in oil, it doesn’t mean the food was packed with nutrients in the first place.
Calories are typically cut by 70 percent to 80 percent when using an air fryer instead of deep frying. Fats are also cut back substantially. This definitely makes it a handy healthy food preparation method. It may also cut down certain other frying chemical reactions such as the formation of acrylamide, a chemical that forms when deep frying starchy foods such as potatoes. Acrylamide can increase the risk of certain cancers. In potatoes, it cuts back the amount by 90 percent.
Where Air Fryers Aren’t Your Healthiest Choice
Still, there are some areas where air fryers are not a healthy food preparation method. Some research has shown that air frying fish raised cholesterol oxidation products (COPs). Those form when meat or fish cholesterol breaks down in the cooking process. COPs have been linked with artery hardening, coronary heart disease, some cancers, and other diseases.
If you still want to cook fish in the air fryer, one study suggested adding chives or fresh parsley to the finished product (and to eat them, not just leave them as a decoration on the plate). Those ingredients, on their own or combined, work as antioxidants and can counteract the COPs in air fried foods.
Air frying may also not be the best healthy food preparation method for fish because it reduces the omega-3 fatty acid content in fish. That is an important nutrient we obtain from fish and that can be challenging to obtain in appropriate quantities from other sources.
Still, as long as you’re aware of these issues and take the necessary steps to ensure you’re getting the right nutrition, air fryers can certainly be a healthy food preparation method when compared to deep frying.