It depends on your definition of "healthy."
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After a particularly long and grueling day, there’s nothing I want more than to sit down and eat an entire plate of French fries for dinner. It may feel great in the moment, but you know what I don’t love? The feeling that comes after. All that oil and grease comes with a price, which often includes heartburn, indigestion, and an overwhelming sense of regret.
What if there was a way to get those delicious fries without the oil? Sounds great, right? This selling point is part of the reason air fryers have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years.
Air fryers are your ticket to healthier frying—by using air instead of oil, these appliances offer a more health-conscious way to prepare fried foods. There's no denying that it’s healthier than deep-frying, but is this method actually healthy?
Unlike conventional frying, which uses excessive amounts of oil, air fryers use air to achieve the same texture. By circulating hot air around your food of choice, air fryers use convection technology to produce that crispy outer layer you love. You can air fry just about anything you’d deep fry, including chicken, frozen foods and Oreos. Yes, that is unfortunately still a thing.
Some air fryers use hot air alone to cook foods, while others require a small amount of oil to do the trick. This distinction comes down to the type of air fryer you’ve purchased.
As with many things in life, there's no simple answer to this question. There are both pros and cons of cooking with an air fryer, and the answer to whether your air-fried meal can be deemed "healthy" comes down to several factors, including what you're cooking and what you're comparing it to.
Let’s review the positives and negatives when it comes to determining whether these appliances are healthy.
There are a number of factors that weigh the scale in the air fryer’s favor here, including reduced calorie count and fat content—at least when compared to deep-fried food.
However, there are several disadvantages to consider as well, including quality and the fact that the food is still, you know, fried.
Another major factor that determines whether or not air fryers can be constituted as "healthy" is the type of food you’re preparing. Chicken breasts or vegetables prepared in the air fryer will not be as fatty as those that you deep fry, and they still contain important nutrients. But an Oreo is an Oreo—air frying won’t suddenly make a cookie healthy.
Air frying offers a healthy alternative to deep frying, but at the end of the day, your healthiest meals will come from baking, blanching and roasting your favorite foods. You can—and should—use an air fryer in place of deep frying, but don’t let it replace your daily cooking habits.