What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a popular kitchen appliance used to fry foods such as potato strips, veggies, meat, and pastries. It circulates hot air around the food to produce a crispy and crunchy texture. Air-fried foods are considered to be healthier than deep-fried foods as less oil is used to produce a similar texture and taste.
Air-frying vs deep frying:
Deep-fried dishes usually require 3 cups of oil, while air-frying requires just a tablespoon of oil to achieve a similar taste and texture to deep-fried foods. This means that deep fryers use up to 50 times more oil than air fryers. Though not all the oil is absorbed by the food, using an air fryer can significantly reduce the overall fat content of your fried food.
A higher intake of fat from vegetable oils has been associated with an increased risk of health conditions such as heart disease and inflammation. This does not mean you should avoid all the fat, as the dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20% to 35% of total calories from fat. That is about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you consume 2,000 calories a day. However, eating much fried foods is an easy way to over consume fat. Depending on the type of oil being used, less oil used by the air fryer could also mean a decreased intake of saturated fat, which would also contribute to decreased risk for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Calories and weight management:
Every gram of fat provides 9 calories, which means dietary fat contains over twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates. One study that included 33,542 Spanish adults found that a higher intake of fried foods was associated with a greater risk for obesity. As air-fried foods are lower in fat than deep-fried ones, switching to an air fryer may help you manage your weight.
Formation of harmful compounds:
Acrylamide is a compound formed in carbohydrate-rich foods during high-heat cooking methods like frying. Acrylamide is classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This means that some research has shown that acrylamide may be linked to the development of cancer. Air-frying your food instead of using a deep fryer may help lower the acrylamide content of your fried foods. A study has found that air-frying reduced acrylamide by up to 90% compared to traditional deep-frying.
Regardless, it’s important to note that other harmful compounds may still be formed during the process of air-frying. Other potentially dangerous chemicals such as aldehydes, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed with high-heat cooking and may be associated with a higher risk of cancer. Further research is needed to determine how air-frying may affect the formation of these compounds.
Take home message:
Compared to deep-frying, using an air fryer can reduce the amount of fat, calories, and potentially harmful compounds in your food. It is okay to enjoy fried foods in moderation, but while research on the effects of air-fried food is limited, try to cook more by boiling, steaming, or stewing to help avoid the negative effects of fried foods. Though cooking methods could influence the nutrition contents of the foods, the types of foods that you put into the air fryer are still the main factor that influences their nutrition profile. So, try to choose more nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, fatty fish, and lean meats.