Air fryers aren't always the healthiest choice, according to experts - here's why

Frank Olito
·4 min read
air fryer chicken
Are air fryers actually healthier? Bubbers BB/Shuttershock
  • Insider spoke with dietitians to learn if air fryers are a healthy alternative to deep-frying.

  • Experts say air fryers require less cooking oil, so you will consume fewer calories and less fat.

  • But air frying all your recipes doesn't necessarily give you a healthy diet.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Air fryers are quickly becoming one of the most popular kitchen appliances.

In fact, 10 million air fryers were sold in the US between 2017 and 2019, according to GrubStreet, with many people latching onto the idea that air fryers are a great way to make quick, healthy meals.

But is cooking with an air fryer actually healthier than traditional cooking techniques? Insider spoke with experts to find out.

What is an air fryer and how does it work?

An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that can be used to get the crispiness of deep-fried food without actually deep-frying in oil. Breaded or dry-seasoned foods are among the most popular recipes.

Instead of placing something like breaded chicken into a pan of oil, the air fryer blows hot air around the chicken and causes it to crisp up and brown, creating a crunchy texture that is similar to fried chicken.

There are some health benefits to using an air fryer

Since you use less oil when cooking in an air fryer, there are some health benefits. For starters, using an air fryer can cut 70 to 80% of calories from your diet compared to frying in oil, Ariana Cucuzza, a registered dietitian, told the Cleveland Clinic in 2019.

Nutritionist Andy Bellatti told Insider, "A tablespoon of oil is 125 calories. When you are just using a teaspoon of oil in an air fryer, it's going to be a lot less caloric than something in an actual fryer where a lot more oil is being absorbed. It's a way to lower your calorie intake pretty substantially."

air fryer meat fork
Air fryers require less oil. Shutterstock

Additionally, the reduction or absence of oil while air frying helps cut back on the total fat.

"For those who are watching fat intake for medical reasons, air fryers can help you create fried foods that are lower in overall fat content," Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian and author of "Gentle Nutrition," told Insider.

Reducing fat and calorie intake can help a person lose weight and eat healthier when compared to eating fried foods. Therefore, air fryers can be helpful for people who are tracking their calories and their fat intake.

But some experts say there are no guarantees air frying is a healthier way to cook

The health benefits of air fryers have their limits because they don't necessarily promote or guarantee a healthy diet.

If you're turning to an air fryer every day to cook every meal, you're not necessarily eating healthier, according to Hartley. Sure, the process makes some recipes a healthier alternative, but it doesn't add nutritional value. Similarly, it doesn't make an unhealthy dish a smart choice. At the end of the day, air-fried breaded chicken is still breaded chicken - grilled chicken would be the healthier option.

air fryer wings
Air fryers don't make a healthy diet. shauntoray grisby/Shutterstock

"I tell my clients that air fryers aren't necessarily healthier, it's just an easy and low mess way to cook dishes that have the satisfying crispness of fried foods," Hartley said. "Instead of thinking of them as a dieting tool, think of them as a tool for cooking simple and satisfying meals without a lot of fuss."

Hartley also added air fryers will probably not help you lose weight, saying there was "zero research" to back that up.

Plus, cutting oil out of your diet completely isn't always for the best.

"Although a low-fat, air-fried diet sounds enticing, you'd end up missing out on the wonderful benefits of plant-based fats such as avocado oil and olive oil," Cucuzza told the Cleveland Clinic.

The verdict

While using an air fryer to replace fried foods can be healthier, there is no guarantee that your overall diet will be balanced or nutritious. If you're looking to lose weight, count calories, or keep track of fat intake, air fryers can be helpful, but they won't necessarily make you or your meals healthy.

Instead of putting an emphasis on cooking in an air fryer, experts say to focus on eating a well-balanced diet.

Read the original article on Insider