From doughnuts to chicken to french fries, fried food is hard to resist. But when it comes to health, the disadvantages of fried food may help lead you away from temptation.
The Allure of Fried Foods
The popularity of fried foods may seem to coincide with the number of fast food restaurants popping up all over the United States and across the world, but frying isn't a new cooking method. In fact, the Mediterranean countries have been frying food for centuries, according to an October 2015 review published in Nutrients.
All cooking methods influence the flavor and texture of food. However, one of the benefits of fried food, and the reason it's so hard to resist, is that it simply makes food tastier. Deep frying in oil also makes food more durable, which is why it's a common cooking method for processed foods.
Unfortunately, the benefits of fried food are also why it's unhealthy. Because fried food is so appetizing and convenient, it's easy to eat too much. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 36 percent of adults eat fast food every day, which often contains fried foods. Consuming too many fried foods isn't good for your waistline or your health, and may even shorten your lifespan.
What Makes Fried Foods Unhealthy?
It's not a secret that frying food is unhealthy, but you may wonder why. In addition to influencing taste and texture, frying also affects nutrition, especially the calories and the fat content.
Based on nutrition information from the USDA, a 3.5-ounce baked potato has 93 calories and no fat, while the same serving of french fries made from a fresh potato has 196 calories and 13 grams of fat. Frying potatoes more than doubles the calories and adds a lot of unnecessary fat.
Overweight and obesity are major health issues in the United States, affecting two out of three adults. It may not come as a surprise that frequent consumption of fried foods is associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity, according to a February 2013 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
But when it comes to your health, the disadvantages of fried food go beyond excess calories and possible weight gain. Results from a large prospective study published in the August 2014 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that frequent consumption of fried food increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A more recent large prospective study published in the January 2019 online edition of The BMJ found that daily consumption of fried food in premenopausal women increases risk of premature death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer. What does this mean exactly? Eating fried foods regularly can shorten your lifespan.
Healthier Cooking Methods
Given the disadvantages of fried foods, you may be asking yourself, "What's the healthiest way to cook meat, chicken and fish without sacrificing flavor?" Well, you have many options that don't require special skills or cooking tools.
The Mayo Clinic says baking and roasting are simple and healthy cooking options for meat. Though baking and roasting both use the oven, roasting requires a higher cooking temperature. Grilling, broiling, sauteing and stir frying are also healthy cooking options for meat, chicken and fish.
To get the crispy crunch you crave without the calories and fat, you may want to invest in an air fryer. This kitchen counter device uses hot air and a smidge of oil to create the fried-food taste and texture. You can use an air fryer to cook steak, fish, chicken and even french fries.
Air fryers are also efficient, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which makes them a convenient cooking tool for those with little time to cook.
- Nutrients: "Fried Food Consumption and Cardiovascular Health: A Review of Current Evidence"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016"
- USDA: FoodData Central: "Potato, Baked, NFS"
- USDA: FoodData Central: "Potato, French Fries, From Fresh, Fried"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Overweight & Obesity Statistics"
- Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases: "Consumption of Fried Foods and Weight Gain in a Mediterranean Cohort: The SUN Project"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Fried-Food Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease: A Prospective Study in 2 Cohorts of US Women and Men"
- The BMJ: "Association of Fried Food Consumption With All Cause, Cardiovascular and Cancer Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study"
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy-Cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor and Cut Calories"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Air-Frying: Is It As Healthy As You Think?"