Air fryers have been growing in popularity, in part due to their energy efficiency. But how healthy are they, Susannah Hickling asks
They’re popular and they’re energy efficient, but how healthy are air fryers?
An air fryer cooks food by circulating hot air super quickly, thanks to a powerful fan. Tiny droplets of oil carried by the hot air make the food crispy. You hardly have to use any fat—and sometimes none—to get the same effect as conventional frying.
"An air fryer cooks food by circulating hot air super quickly, thanks to a powerful fan"
Air-fried chips, for example, might be as much as 90 per cent lower in fat, and therefore lower in calories, than your deep-fried variety. They’ll also have less fat than oven chips.
Are all air-fried foods healthier?
As ever, it’s complicated. While you might have healthier French fries, fatty foods like bacon and sausages you might usually cook without adding extra fat won’t miraculously become lower in fat and better for you just because they come out of a newfangled mini-cooker.
When it comes to cooking already healthy foods such as chicken, fish and vegetables, there’s no evidence an air dryer is preferable to a conventional oven.
But when it comes to fatty fish such as sardines, a Brazilian study found that air frying reduced levels of healthy poly-unsaturated fats and increased cholesterol oxidation products, which may increase plaque formation in blood vessels.
Is the cooking process safe?
All food changes its structure when it’s cooked. Acrylamide is produced when you cook starchy foods like potatoes at high temperatures and has been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. A Spanish study found air frying created up to 90 per cent less acrylamide than deep-oil frying.
"The bottom line is if your diet consists of a lot of deep-fried food, using an air fryer will serve up nosh that’s better for you"
Chinese research found advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which could up your risk of inflammation and diseases such as diabetes, were present at a lower level in air-fried fishcakes, compared with their deep-fried counterparts. But those prepared in the air fryer had more AGEs than pan-fried ones as the cooking time increased.
So, what’s the conclusion? The bottom line is if your diet consists of a lot of deep-fried food, using an air fryer will serve up nosh that’s better for you. Otherwise, just enjoy the convenience and the savings.
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