There are many health benefits of air frying food including it being a healthier alternative to deep frying, decreasing the calorie content of food, and being a lower fat method of cooking. In this post we will review the many air fryer health benefits.
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If you've been following me for a while now you know that I love using my air fryer to cook. It saves so much time, doesn't heat up my whole kitchen, and is actually a healthier way of cooking compared to some other cooking methods.
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How Air Fryers Work
Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the food to produce a crunchy, crispy exterior. It's basically like a small convection oven. When food is cooked this way, it results in a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction, which occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar in the presence of heat. This reaction leads to changes in the color and flavour of food.
Because it uses circulating hot air to cook food, air fryers can grill and bake food, using little to no oil, and they can make delicious fried foods, without actually having to deep fry them.
You can cook many different foods in an air fryer, and because they are so quick and easy to use they have become a very popular kitchen appliance. They are touted as a healthier way of preparing your favorite fried foods, so I thought it was important to review the health benefits of air frying, and whether the benefits do outweigh the risks of using an air fryer.
Health Benefits of Air Frying
Using Less Oil
Air fryers require a fraction of the cooking oil that deep fryers need, so compared to deep frying, using an air fryer is a much healthier option for traditional fried food. In fact, studies comparing the characteristics of deep-fried and air-fried French fries found that air-frying resulted in food with substantially less fat compared to deep frying.
Not only are you using less cooking oil, this also often leads to food that is lower in both fat and calories. You only need a small amount of oil to cook foods in an air fryer that taste just like they've been deep fried. Foods like French fries, fish sticks, fried chicken, egg rolls, onion rings and more!
Plus most deep fried foods are cooked in oils and fats that are not great for our health such as trans fats. Trans fats are associated with an increased risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Additionally, fried foods are often cooked in processed vegetable or seed oils which may contain trans fats before heating. When these oils are heated to high temperatures, such as during frying, their trans fat content can increase. One study even found that each time an oil is reused for frying, its trans fat content increases.
It's very important to note that it is artificial trans fats that are problematic. Natural trans fats that occur in foods like meat and dairy products have not been shown to have the same negative health effects as those found in processed food and fried food.
By using an air fryer at home, you can choose healthier oils to cook your food in like coconut oil, avocado oil, butter or even ghee! Even when compared to frying food in a pan, you will use much less oil when you cook food in an air fryer instead.
Eating deep fried food is associated with weight gain, obesity and other health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Hence if we are able to switch from eating deep fried food to home made food in the air fryer it should assist in weight loss. Of course there have been no actual studies examining this yet but hopefully there will be!
Can decrease the formation of harmful compounds
Besides making food higher in fat and calories, frying food can create potentially dangerous compounds like acrylamide. Acrylamide forms in certain foods cooked during high-heat or high temperature cooking methods, including deep frying, baking and air frying. Because of this acrylamide is found in up to 1/3 of the food we eat, including air fried foods.
Acrylamide has been classified as a probable carcinogen and exposure to acrylamide causes numerous cancers in animal models. However, whether acrylamide increases cancer risk in humans is still not clear.
Interestingly, air frying food instead of deep frying may help lower the acrylamide content of food. One study found that air-frying reduced acrylamide by up to 90%, compared with traditional deep-frying.
However, it is still not clear how air frying affects the production of other harmful compounds. It is possible that other compounds such as aldehydes, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are formed with high heat cooking and may be associated with a higher risk of cancer could still be produced when you air fry food.
Safer than Deep Fryers
One of the dangers of deep frying food is that you can easily get burned by the hot oil or grease. While air fryers do get hot, there is no risk of spilling, splashing, or accidentally touching any hot oil like there is when cooking with deep fryers. Of course, always follow your air fryer instructions to use your appliance safely.
Other Benefits of Air Frying
Besides the health benefits, there are other benefits to air frying. Most important to me is that cooking food in an air fryer saves so much time! It is so much faster to cook food in an air fryer compared with baking, frying or deep frying foods.
Another benefit is that the clean up is so simple. You just stick the racks and the tray in your dishwasher after you're done using them. You also don't have to worry about making a mess of your counters or your oven.
Risks of Air Fryer Cooking
No cooking methods are perfect. And there are some risks with using an air fryer which I thought it was important to discuss.
Like any other high heat cooking method, cooking meat in an air fryer can lead to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines. Like acrylamide, these compounds have been associated with an increased cancer risk in animals. However, whether or not they actually cause cancer in humans is still unclear.
You can still cook unhealthy food in an air fryer. Just because you aren't deep frying your food doesn't mean the food itself is healthy. Always be sure to read ingredient lists and try to avoid processed or refined ingredients as much as you can.
Sadly, many air fryers on the market are coated with non-stick coatings. Unfortunately, non-stick coatings are not good for our health. Typically the term “non-stick” usually means that the surfaces have been coated with perfluorinated chemicals or PFAS like PFOA. These chemicals are toxic to both humans and the environment and have been linked to numerous health effects including colon cancer, thyroid diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, reduced fetal growth, increased cholesterol and ADHD.
Fortunately, there are a few models of air fryers on the market that don't use non-stick coatings. Please see the next section where I review various non toxic air fryer options.
Non toxic air fryers
This is a list of air fryers that are free from PFAS coatings. If you are looking into buying an air fryer I recommend these specific models:
Big Boss 16Qt Large Air Fryer
The Big Boss 16Qt Large Air Fryer is a large capacity air fryer that is easy to use and perfect for family meals.
It is free from PFAS chemicals.
Has a large capacity so is great for larger sized meals.
It comes in a variety of colours so you can match it to your kitchen decor and color scheme.
It is not just an air fryer. It has a wide temperature range from 180℉ to 400℉, so you can use it to air fry, bake, grill, roast, and toast.
The glass frying basket is dishwasher safe so the clean up is really easy.
Compared to some other air fryers it is a little more expensive.
Because of its large size it may be harder to store.
Ranges from $77 to $92 USD.
Classic Cuisine 12-17 Qt 1200 W Halogen Tabletop Oven
The Classic Cuisine 12-17 Qt 1200 W Halogen Tabletop Oven is another large size air fryer that is easy to use and family friendly.
Free from PFAS chemicals.
Energy saving compared to using an oven.
The glass cooking bowl allows you to see your food while it's cooking.
You can cook the food in a variety of ways given the temperature range.
More affordable compared to some other air fryers.
Is a larger size so storage may be a challenge.
$59.49 - $69.95 USD.
Nutrichef Convection Countertop Toaster Oven
The Nutrichef Convection Countertop Toaster Oven is another large air fryer with an 18 quart capacity! The large size makes this one a great option for families.
Free from PFAS chemicals.
The 18 quart capacity means it's a great size for cooking meals.
The glass bowl allows you to see the food as it cooks.
This is another affordable air fryer option.
The larger size can make storage trickier.
Frequently asked questions:
Some of the pros of air fryers is that they use less oil compared to deep frying, are faster than cooking food in an oven and take up less space than an oven. Some of the cons include the fact that they take longer to fry food compared to deep frying, can take up room on your counter and can be coated with harmful non-stick chemicals.
In summary, no method of cooking is perfect. But cooking with an air fryer is a fast and easy way to cook so many different foods. Yes, there are some risks associated with air fryer cooking (as there are with other cooking methods), but if you choose a safe model of air fryer, air frying can be a healthy alternative to some other cooking methods, especially deep frying.
The top three benefits of cooking with an air fryer include:
- It's faster than cooking food in your oven!
- It uses less oil compared to deep frying.
- It is safer than deep frying.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions please let me know.
Other posts you will be interested in:
- How to choose safe cookware
- The best frozen foods to cook in an air fryer
- Air Fryer Steak
- Air Fryer Hamburgers
- Air Fryer Salmon Cakes
- The best non-toxic air fryers.
Dr. Erin Carter, MD, FRCPC, is a physician with board certifications in internal medicine and rheumatology. She is passionate about nutrition, environmental health and low toxicity living and has been doing research and publishing information in this area for years. She is also a self-trained chef and has been creating and publishing recipes since 2015. Her recipes have been featured on many different websites and online publications.
- A comparative study of the characteristics of French fries produced by deep fat frying and air frying
- Trans fatty acids – A risk factor for cardiovascular disease
- Dietary trans-fatty acid intake in relation to cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- The Effect of Trans Fatty Acids on Human Health: Regulation and Consumption Patterns
- Analysis of Trans Fat in Edible Oils with Cooking Process
- Effect of heating/reheating of fats/oils, as used by Asian Indians, on trans fatty acid formation
- Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk
- Acrylamide: a common food toxin related to physiological functions and health
- Effect of pretreatments and air-frying, a novel technology, on acrylamide generation in fried potatoes