Hey Jess! A hot topic of discussion with my friends is all this air fryer hype at the moment. Are they as healthy as they claim to be though?
Air fryers are certainly stealing the spotlight at the moment. I’ve been tempted by the Instagram ads myself. But do they truly deliver on the health front?
Only just larger than your coffee machine, an air fryer works its magic like a mini oven. They are made up of a heating element at the top with a powerful fan that circulates hot air around the food to cook it. Unlike the copious amounts of oil used in deep frying, an air fryer relies on small droplets of oil scattered in the hot air, creating foods with a crispy outer layer.
Now back to the question of whether they are truly ‘healthy’. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear-cut. Air frying stands out as a healthier option compared to certain cooking methods, but not necessarily as good as others. It comes down to what the comparison is and what dishes are being prepared then.
An air fryer requires much less oil than the traditional frying method of submerging food in large amounts of oil. It can be a healthier option for those who enjoy the crisp texture of fried food without the excess oil.
Air frying tends to cook foods faster than the traditional oven method as it circulates the hot air from all sides – a benefit if you’re short on time.
Air frying may prove advantageous in the reduction of acrylamide, a potentially harmful compound formed during high-heat cooking, such as deep fat frying.
They can be an expensive initial cost, so make sure to determine how often you’ll use it so that it’s worth the investment.
This can be a drawback when you’d like to prepare meals for larger groups. They are better suited for meals for 2-3 people at a time.
Foods with a high moisture content, such as some cheeses or leafy green vegetables, don’t necessarily fare well in an air fryer.
While there’s a clear advantage favouring air frying as a healthier choice than deep frying, thanks to the reduced calorie contribution to the final dish. It’s important to note this doesn’t necessarily outshine the benefits of pan frying or oven cooking. If an air fryer works for you, that’s great, but the takeaway is that it isn’t crucial for preparing a nutritious, balanced meal.
If you often consume a large amount of fried food, an air fryer is certainly a good option for you. However, it's more important to consider your overall dietary habits rather than becoming overly fixated on particular cooking techniques. The determination of ‘healthiness’ comes down to the nature of the foods you prepare.
While there are positives and negatives, both the oven and air fryer can form a healthy part of a cooking routine, and bring some variety to your favourite recipes.
Jessica Stansfield, RNutr
Junior Nutrition Manager
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