Are Air Fryers Really a Healthy Alternative?

We all love fried foods; this is part of human evolution. Fried foods provide lots of fat, which, in prehistoric times, were essential for our survival. But what about eating these fats in modern times? 

We know that the high temperatures used for frying food induce oxidation of cholesterol.  Cholesterol oxidation products are formed which are associated with heart diseases, atherosclerosis, and other modern chronic diseases.

So it’s no wonder that technology is thinking of ways to overcome the negative aspects of fat-laden diets but looking at ways to maintain the taste. 

Air fryers are becoming extremely popular because, according to their advertising, are a healthy substitute for regular fryers. Advertising claims that they have achieved both health and taste together.

But is this true? Are air fryers indeed a healthy alternative, or can they also have a negative impact on your health? Let’s take a look at what the available research says.

What Makes Air Fryers Different?

There are two aspects of air fryers that set them apart from deep-frying methods:

1. Air fryers use a fraction of the oil other fryers use. They rely on circulating hot air around the food to fry it and make it tasty similar to deep-fried food.

Essentially, air fryers use small oil drops mixed with hot air to remove the moisture from food. This creates crispy and tasty food that’s in many ways similar to deep-fried food, but without the vast quantities of unhealthy fats. [5]

To put that into perspective, most deep-fried food recipes require around 750 ml of oil, while air-fried food recipes need only a single tablespoon or 15 ml of oil to produce similar results. And we know that high intakes of vegetable oils increase the risk of heart disease and inflammation. [1] [2] [3] [4]

2. Scientists have shown that frying food creates dangerous compounds. One of these is a chemical called acrylamide. When starchy food is heated to very high temperatures, during frying or other cooking methods, with low moisture, acrylamide is naturally formed in a chemical process called the Maillard Reaction. This is what causes the food to ‘brown’ and affects its taste. Acrylamide forms from sugars and the amino acid asparagine found in many foods.

Acrylamide consumed from food is absorbed through the digestive system and metabolized to produce glycidamide.  Glycidamide has been shown to cause gene mutations and tumors in animals.

Based on these animal studies, experts agree that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups, with children being the most exposed age group.

Because air fryers cook foods for longer in high temperatures than conventional fryers (with processing times typically 12 min longer than deep frying), some tests show that air fryers actually produce 30-40% more acrylamide than conventional deep oil fryers.

Although other studies show that air-fried food actually have 90% less acrylamide. 

Because of this uncertainty, more research is needed to determine whether this is true. [6]

However, different studies also show that there may be other harmful compounds produced during air frying as well. [6]

So air frying is not completely innocent.

Although much fewer oils are used during air frying, and eating a lot of fried foods leads to obesity, air frying may be a healthier option. [7]

However, it’s important to note that even though air fryers may be a healthier alternative to deep-frying because of fat content, they do not produce foods that are as healthy as cooked or oven-baked foods.

Eating a lot of fried food is still very unhealthy, and you should limit your consumption of fried foods, whether they are air-fried or otherwise prepared. 

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb


[1] Dobarganes C, Márquez-Ruiz G. Possible adverse effects of frying with vegetable oils. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;113(S2):S49-S57. doi:10.1017/S0007114514002347

[2] A Ascherio, W C Willett, Health effects of trans fatty acids, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 66, Issue 4, October 1997, Pages 1006S–1010S,

[3] Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Majchrzak SF, Davis JM. n-6 fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1586-600. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510004010

[4] Tan P, Dong X, Mai K, Xu W, Ai Q. Vegetable oil induced inflammatory response by altering TLR-NF-?B signalling, macrophages infiltration and polarization in adipose tissue of large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea). Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2016 Dec;59:398-405. doi: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.11.009. 

[5] Teruel Mdel R, Gordon M, Linares MB, Garrido MD, Ahromrit A, Niranjan K. A comparative study of the characteristics of French fries produced by deep fat frying and air frying. J Food Sci. 2015 Feb;80(2):E349-58. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12753. 

[6] Sansano M, Juan-Borrás M, Escriche I, Andrés A, Heredia A. Effect of pretreatments and air-frying, a novel technology, on acrylamide generation in fried potatoes. J Food Sci. 2015 May;80(5):T1120-8. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12843. 

[7] Guallar-Castillón P, Rodríguez-Artalejo F, Fornés NS, Banegas JR, Etxezarreta PA, Ardanaz E, Barricarte A, Chirlaque MD, Iraeta MD, Larrañaga NL, Losada A, Mendez M, Martínez C, Quirós JR, Navarro C, Jakszyn P, Sánchez MJ, Tormo MJ, González CA. Intake of fried foods is associated with obesity in the cohort of Spanish adults from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):198-205. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.1.198


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