The air fryer is advertised as being a kitchen appliance that can help you fully enjoy all the fried foods you love in a guilt-free and healthy way. Right now, these cooking appliances are enjoying a popularity surge.
You see them being promoted as great appliances that help people lower the fat content of numerous popular foods, such as chicken wings, fish sticks, empanadas, and French fries. But, is air frying actually healthy?
Air frying is much healthier than some other methods of cooking such as deep frying. You still have to watch what you eat but you can achieve a crispy texture for your foods using an air fryer without all the oil (and calories). You also want to find an air fryer that is PTFE-free, PFOA-free, and BPA-free as these materials have been found to cause health problems in the long term.
Lets take a closer look at if the benefits claimed by air fryer enthusiasts are indeed healthy.
How Does The Air Fryer Work?
To determine if air fried food is healthy or not, let’s start by understanding how an air fryer works.
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance you use to make foods that are typically deep-fried like potato chips, pastries, and meat. The appliance uses hot air that circulates around the food. As a result, the food is cooked and it develops a crispy and crunchy exterior just like fried foods do.
Air-fried foods stand out as healthy alternatives to the usual deep-fried foods we are all used to. This is due to the lower content of calories and fats that result from the cooking process. Food is not completely submerged in oil.
As a matter of fact, you can use the air fryer with no oil whatsoever and still achieve texture and taste that are very similar to those of deep-fried foods.
What Foods Can Be Cooked With An Air Fryer?
The air fryer is a highly versatile kitchen appliance that can be used to cook more foods than people expect.
Essentially, if the meal you have in mind can be cooked in the oven or on the stove, it can usually be made in the air fryer as well.
Here are some of the foods you can prepare with an air fryer:
- All foods that you can bake, roast, grill or fry.
- All foods that require light flour or bread crumb coating, usually for frying purposes. This includes many vegetables and meats.
- Frozen foods such as chicken nuggets and frozen french fries, and home-prepared meals. Even if they do have different cooking instructions, they are still safe to cook with an air fryer.
How Healthy Is An Air Fryer?
Cooking food with an air fryer is definitely a healthier and better way to enjoy fried foods.
However, in order to understand how healthy the air fryer is, we need to discuss all the benefits that are oftentimes listed as reasons to purchase this appliance.
Everything you need to know is listed below.
Air Fryers Help Reduce Fat Content
There’s no secret that deep-fried foods have a very high-fat content compared to foods cooked using any other method. For example, the fat content of deep-fried chicken breast versus the fat content of roasted chicken.
Air fryers significantly cut down the fat content.
Some manufacturers claim that air fryers reduce the fat content by an impressive 75%. This is because air frying requires little to no oil to cook.
On the other hand, if you cook fried foods using the traditional method, you need a large quantity of oil, sometimes up to three cups. With an air fryer, the same recipes would only need 1 tablespoon of oil.
A deep fryer can use even 50 times more oil than the standard air fryer. Not all the oil ends up absorbed by the food but it cannot be denied that the air fryer significantly reduces overall fat content.
At the same time, it produces a similar texture and taste.
Consequently, reducing your oil intake can have a positive impact on your health.
Air Fryers Help Reduce Calorie Content
The calorie content is another concern when it comes to fried foods.
Because they are high in calories, fried chicken, french fries, and other fried foods can contribute to weight gain. When you want to lose weight, something as simple as swapping the deep-dried foods with healthier air-fried foods is a great place to start.
One gram of fat contains 9 calories. Because of this, dietary fat has over 2 times more calories than macronutrients like carbohydrates and protein which both have 4 calories per gram.
Air-fried foods have lower fat content so you can end up cutting calories by making the switch. As a result, you can lose weight.
And, if you’re not looking to lose weight, you can easily maintain your current weight with air fried foods, as long as you don’t have a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss or eat calorie dense foods that can lead to weight gain.
Do Air Fryers Use Oil?
Oil is rarely needed when you use the air fryer to cook. However, this does not mean that you cannot use it.
In fact, many popular recipes require a tiny amount of oil because oil prevents the foods you’re cooking from sticking to the basket of the fryer.
If you use oil, you have to mix it with the rest of the ingredients before they are added to the fryer.
If you want to use oil to air fry, remember the following:
- You cannot pour oil directly in the air fryer pan. Rub the oil directly on the vegetable or meats you plan to cook or mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
- If you add cooking oil before you air fry, you will make your foods crispier and crunchier. Adding a little bit of oil works great for recipes that otherwise require frying, such as French fries, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, and so many others.
- You can use almost any type of oil inside the air fryer.
If you are worried about the amount of oil you use in your cooking, even if you use the air fryer, a great thing to do is to look for recipes that use no oil or require a very limited amount of oil.
You will quickly see there are countless air fryer recipes available that require no oil whatsoever.
Air Fryers Vs Deep Fryers – Which Is Healthier?
Since air fryers use less oil than deep fryers, the foods you cook will naturally contain less fat and, as a result, they will have a lower calorie content than deep-fried foods.
Using less oil means less fat and fewer calories and, although this can be helpful for weight loss, it is important to remember that healthy eating is not just about calories and fats. If you like to eat lots of fried foods then an air fryer can help you achieve your weight loss goals because calories add up fast when deep frying.
However, having a balanced and nutritious diet is still required.
You can improve your diet by replacing your deep fryer with an air fryer but you also need to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, to reduce your calorie intake, and to stay away from processed, unhealthy foods.
If you are interested in losing weight or you just want to lower fat intake while you do not want to cut down on the fried foods you like a lot, using the air fryer is a very good option.
Remember that the secret to losing weight and living a healthy life is to follow a balanced diet that includes all the macronutrients and micronutrients the body needs.
How you cook food is not the only thing that has to be taken into account when you want to improve your health.
You also need to be sure you rest as much as the body needs to recover, every single day, and work out as much as possible. Even light workout routines can do wonders to improve your health.
PTFE-Free, PFOA-Free, and BPA-Free Materials
If you plan to buy an air fryer, it is important to choose a high-quality model that can truly make your life easier and healthier. Read about the best air fryers to learn about air fryer features so you can make the right choice for you and your family.
One very important thing that few people consider is the materials chosen by the manufacturers.
You have to be particularly careful about PTFE, PFOA, and BPA.
When you shop for air fryers, opt for those that are labeled as BPA-free, PFOA-free, and PTFE-free.
This is safer for your body. If you are not familiar with these labels, we highlighted all the important aspects below.
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a dangerous man-made chemical. Some manufacturers use this chemical to make products with high resistance to sticking, grease, and water.
Even if you see a product marked with “contains no PFOA”, the chemical might still have been used during manufacture. The problem with PFOA is that it does not disappear.
PFOA exposure is dangerous for us. It was proven that high exposure can lead to various possible ailments, including:
- Liver damage
- Ulcerative colitis
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid disease
- Blood pressure changes when pregnant
- Cholesterol concerns
- Health problems with children, babies, and fetuses
PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene and has been used for cookware since the sixties.
However, its safety recently started to be debated. This is because of the connection with PFOA, which is used to produce PTFE.
To put it as simple as possible, PTFE can be dangerous because of the use of PFOA but there are no studies to highlight whether or not polytetrafluoroethylene is dangerous.
Even so, it is better to be safe than sorry.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. This is an industrial-level chemical that has been used to manufacture some resins and plastics since the early 1960s.
We find it in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics.
Oftentimes, polycarbonate plastics are utilized in containers used to store beverages and foods but their use is not limited to these products.
Some of the air fryers you find on the market include BPA in one form or another.
While the main parts of the air fryer are not plastic, manufacturers can still use BPA plastic for certain parts.
It is always a very good idea to avoid air fryers that are not BPA-free.
The real problem with BPA is that it can seep into beverages or food.
Exposure is a serious concern due to BPA’s effects on the prostate gland and brain of children, infants, and fetuses.
Children’s behavior might also be affected, with some research suggesting a potential link between increased blood pressure and BPA.
Officially, the FDA (US Food And Drug Administration) declared that BPA is not dangerous when it is present at low levels, which would appear in foods after cooking.
As with the other substances mentioned, it is better to be safe and reduce exposure as much as possible. This includes:
- Using BPA-free Products – Many air fryers are labeled as BPA-free so it is best to favor these when buying.
- Reduce the use of cans – Most do include BPA.
- Avoid heat – Never put any polycarbonate plastic inside the dishwasher or the microwave oven. Heat can break it down in time, which is particularly important for air fryers due to the high temperatures used.
Air-Fried Food Vs. Other Types Of Food
There is no debate that cooking inside an air fryer is much healthier than with many alternative cooking methods, especially deep-frying. However, this does not mean you should not be careful with what you eat.
Eating fried foods is oftentimes associated with many health problems.
As an example, if a large part of your diet is made out of fried foods, there is an increased risk of heart failure and even some forms of cancer, such as prostate, oral and lung cancers.
We should add that eating fried foods too frequently is linked to conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Research is still limited at the moment but doctors recommend reducing fried food intake. This is said to be better for your health.
Using the air fryer is better but you should not overdo it. Aim for a healthy, balanced diet so also consider other healthy cooking methods, like steaming, roasting, sautéing, and baking (which can be achieved by some air fryers).
To sum up, when compared to deep-frying, air frying is very beneficial. You drastically reduce the amount of fat you consume and the number of calories in your diet.
Air-fried foods remain similar in flavor, taste, and texture to the foods you normally deep-fry so you don’t have to give up on your favorite meals if you want to switch to a healthier diet.
However, even though air fried foods are healthier, you should not overdo it. A balanced diet is always the safest bet.
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