Air Frying Versus Deep Fat Frying – A Nutritionist’s Perspective

Published On: April 12, 2024

Is it any wonder that air fryers have become so popular when you can enjoy your favourite fried foods whilst at least halving the fat content. Air fryers cook food with a small amount of oil and hot air to get a crispy coating but a deliciously moist interior. By reducing the amount of oil, you can also vastly reduce your calorie intake. It’s easy to see how much healthier air frying seems to be but let’s take a closer look at the nutritional advantages over deep fat frying.

Quantity of Oil

When you deep fry foods, you are submerging the food in a large quantity of oil. The calories in fried food depends on the amount of oil that is absorbed by the food while it is submerged. It is likely therefore that deep fried food will be far higher in both calories and total fat than foods cooked in an air fryer. Many air fryer recipes call for less than a tablespoon of oil which is about 120kcal and about 14g of fat, in the case of olive oil. If you were to fry food in a deep fat fryer, you’d use at least 100ml of oil and for cost reasons that’s unlikely to be olive oil and more likely to be an unhealthy seed oil.

Type of Oil

Seed oils such as sunflower seed oil, soybean oil and corn oil, which you are far more likely to use when deep fat frying, tend to degrade more easily during heating than olive oil. They also lead to greater emissions of aldehydes, which are considered carcinogenic. In fact, in studies , sunflower seed oil produced the highest quantity of aldehydes of all oils tested. You’re far more likely to make a healthier choice of oil, such as choosing olive oil, when air frying because you need to use so much less.

Heart Health Risk

Eating too much deep fat fried food has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at the frequency of fried food intake, and the risk of heart failure in male doctors. The study concluded that when more fried food was eaten, there was a higher risk of heart failure in those studied.

Cholesterol Risk

Deep fat frying food at high temperatures can increase what are called the ‘trans fats’. Trans fats are considered the worst type of fat to eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats — also called trans-fatty acids — raise “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower “good” cholesterol (HDL). Eating trans fats can also increase your risk of developing a stroke, and type two diabetes.

Acrylamide Production

Air frying produces a lower quantity of harmful compounds such as acrylamide compared to deep-fat frying. Acrylamide is the result of a process called the Maillard reaction that takes place during high temperature cooking, when water, sugar and amino acids combine to create a fried food’s distinctive flavour, texture, colour, and smell. The Food Standards Agency recognises the need to reduce exposure to acrylamide and provides advice on how to do so which includes aiming for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying or air frying starchy foods.

Cooking From Scratch

Lastly, because air frying requires less time cooking, and an air fryer is far easier to clean than a deep fat fryer, there’s greater appeal to this way of cooking for those short of time. One of the reasons people often seek out quick fixes such as fast food is that they are time-poor, not that they are actively trying to make poor health choices. If the cooking time is reduced and the cleaning up time is reduced when using an air fryer, there are less barriers to cooking from scratch.

Perhaps this, alongside the fact that deep fat frying comes with so many associated health risks, is one of the main reasons for the rising popularity of air fryers. Take a look at the Instant Dual Drawer Air Fryer which won the top spot for the Air Fryer of the Year Award from Expert Reviews. Why settle for second best?