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Is Air Frying Healthy, Actually? What Science Says

An electric Air Fryer on table with blurred kitchen background. Lifestyle of new normal cooking.

Is Air Frying Healthy, Actually? What Science Says

Biting into a crunchy fried chicken may take you back to Sunday dinners at grandma's house. The delicious aroma and satisfying crunch may elicit fond memories that make you want to fry up some tasty fried chicken of your own! While few are arguing that fried foods can be pretty tasty, they aren't exactly great for our overall health. This brings us to the growing popularity of air fryers. What are they, and is an air fryer healthy? 

Many claims state that air frying is a healthier way to enjoy the fried foods that we love without the added guilt of knowing that the fried foods are not exactly healthy for us. While, in theory, this all sounds great, the question is, is it true? Is air frying food healthy, or at the very least healthier than deep oil frying? If so, are there any downsides to using an air fryer? This article digs deep into the science behind the air fryer and what using one can mean for your overall health. 

What is an Air Fryer? 

Air fryers are growing in popularity for several reasons. For starters, they are convenient and come in various sizes. They can also be small enough to sit on your counter, adding to the benefits of owning one.

The mechanics behind an air fryer are very straightforward. The air in an air fryer is pushed all around the food by a fan. The outside becomes crispy first, allowing the inside of the food to retain moisture. This is simple enough. However, what happens is known as the Maillard reaction. During this reaction, the amino acids and sugars undergo a chemical reaction that produces the flavor and dark coloring in many foods we love, such as cookies, seared steaks, and fried zucchini. 

One difference between air frying and oil frying is the fact that air frying requires very little if any, actual oil.

Cooking skinless chicken breast with spices in an air fryer
Air-frying chicken will produce a juicy and delectable meal that you will want to cook time and time again.

©Francisco Zeledon/Shutterstock.com

Health Benefits of Air Frying

There are a few different health benefits that come along with using an air fryer. These health benefits are: 

  • Fewer calories in the foods we eat. 
  • Less fat content. 
  • Possible weight loss.
  • Reduce the chances of Acrylamide and other harmful compounds. 

Let's take a closer look at each of these benefits individually. 

May Reduce Overall Calories

One of the main attractions of using an air fryer is cooking a healthier version of typical deep-fried foods, for example, french fries. The air fryer contributes to a similar outer crunch and moist center while reducing the amount of oil used. 

The oil is significantly less while air frying, which means the amount of calories that one eats will naturally be less than deep-fried foods. In fact, many accounts state that air frying foods over deep frying will cut the calorie content by 70%

Air Frying Contains Less Fat than Oil Frying

Another benefit of air frying is the reduction in oil and fat. Traditionally, when food is being deep fried, most recipes will call for up to three cups of oil. While not all the oil is soaked in by deep-fried foods, there is a significant amount of fat in these dishes. 

Therefore, with an air fryer, it is possible to enjoy the same crunch and consume less fat, which will be heart and health-smart in the long run. 

Could Be a Good Way to Lose Weight

When consuming foods that have been air-fried over deep-fried, you are naturally taking in less fat and calories. This means that air frying can be a great way to lose weight if that is your goal, especially if your diet consists of deep-fried foods. 

If you are looking for a way to introduce a healthier diet into your life, air frying may be beneficial. 

May Reduce the Chances of Acrylamide and Other Harmful Compounds

When carbohydrate-rich foods are fried or cooked on high heat, there is a harmful compound that can form. This compound is called acrylamide. 

Acrylamide may possibly be connected to the development of cancer. 

Air frying foods will help reduce the possible formation of acrylamide and other compounds that can adversely affect your overall health. 

Top view of raw bacon slices in air fryer
There are many benefits of using an air fryer. These include a reduction in calories and fat, as well as aiding in weight loss.

©Nancy Salmon/Shutterstock.com

Downfalls of Air Frying

While the benefits look great, there are a couple of downfalls of using an air fryer. These are: 

  • Flavor and texture differ from oil-fried foods. 
  • This may increase the chance of food developing harmful chemicals.
  • It takes longer to cook than oil frying. 
  • It may increase the chance of cholesterol oxidation products. 

Now, let's look at these adverse effects in more depth.

The Flavor and Texture Differ From Oil-Fried Foods

One of the downfalls of using an air fryer for some may be the difference in flavor and texture. While the air fryer still produces a crunchy outer layer and moist inside, many have noted that the differences are noticeable. If you enjoy the distinct flavor and texture of deep-fried foods, it may take an adjustment before you are on board with air frying as the healthier alternative. 

May Increase the Chance of Foods Developing Harmful Chemicals

While Acrlymide may be less with air frying, it is essential to note that there may be other harmful compound formations during this cooking method. While not specifically connected to air frying, these compounds have the chance of forming when cooking foods on high heat. These compounds are heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and aldehydes and can be linked to greater cancer risk. 

An Air Fryer Takes Longer to Cook Than Oil Frying

Deep-frying foods take significantly less time to cook than air-frying foods. For example, french fries take five to six minutes to deep fry. However, when air frying french fries, it may take closer to 15 minutes. 

Possible Chance of Increasing Cholesterol Oxidation Products 

There is a chance that air frying may increase the substance Cholesterol Oxidation Products. This substance increases when the meat cooks on high heat, and the cholesterol starts to break down. This can lead to an increased risk of heart conditions and cancer. However, the studies surrounding this possibility need to be more extensive. 

 Foods That Cook Great in An Air Fryer

Some foods just taste better in the air fryer. Give one or more of these foods a chance and see which one you prefer: air-fried over oil-fried (baked, sauteed, roasted, or more!) 

roast chicken breast with lemon and vegetables
Numerous foods cook well in an air fryer, including chicken!


Key Takeaways 

There are many benefits and a few downfalls to using an air fryer. The key takeaways are: 

  • Air frying aids in consuming fewer calories daily, allowing us to enjoy more foods we love! 
  • During air frying, there is less oil than deep frying; therefore, one eats less fat naturally. 
  • Since there are naturally fewer calories and fat that go into air frying, it may be an excellent way to lose weight if that is your goal. 
  • Air frying may reduce the chance of acrylamide and other harmful compounds. 
  • Some downsides may be that the flavor and texture differ from oil-fried foods. 
  • There is also a chance that high-heat cooking increases the chance of food developing harmful chemicals.
  • Air frying takes more time than typical deep frying. 
  • There is a study that points towards the increased chance of cholesterol oxidation products in meat and fish. 

So, Is Air Frying Healthy?

When it comes to air frying or deep frying, the healthier alternative is air frying by a long shot. Deep frying utilizes high amounts of oil to achieve the result of a deep flavor and crunchy texture. If you enjoy these elements but want a healthier option, air frying may be for you. 

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