You hear a lot about choosing the right foods to stay healthy, but the cooking method you choose matters, too. While there are benefits of baking food or grilling food, you should steer clear of frying. That doesn't mean that baking and grilling are the only healthy methods though.
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Baking and grilling are both dry cooking methods that you can use to cook healthy food. On the other hand, deep-frying and pan-frying add extra fat and are linked to chronic disease in both men and women.
The key to healthy cooking is to capture the flavor and retain the nutrients of your food without adding excessive amounts of fat, salt or sugar. You can do this by adding fresh herbs, dried herbs, dried mustard, citrus juices and/or low-sugar homemade marinades.
Benefits of Baking Food
The American Heart Association defines baking as slowly cooking food in the oven with gentle heat. This method of cooking allows the natural moisture to slowly evaporate, which eliminates the need for added fat. Because it doesn't require any added fat, baking is considered a dry cooking method. To bake, all you have to do is season your food and then place it in a pan or dish, covered or uncovered, in the oven.
However, if you're concerned about your fat intake, grilling might even be more beneficial than baking. According to Mayo Clinic, one of the benefits of grilling is that it allows fat to drip away from the food during cooking. You can also try broiling, which involves exposing food to direct heat, either on a grill over live coals or below an electric coil. Broiling cooks food in the same way as grilling, allowing any excess fat to drip into the pan and out of your food.
The Downsides of Frying
While baking and grilling are both good choices, traditional deep-fat frying and pan-frying may be techniques that you want to stay away from. Depending on which type of oil you use, these methods can introduce extra saturated fat. And any cooking oil adds unnecessary calories.
According to a January 2019 review in The BMJ, higher consumption of fried foods is connected to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and death from all causes. While this study only collected data from women, another study that was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2014 looked at both men and women and found similar results.
But there's also a new type of frying into town: air-frying. According to Ariana Cucuzza, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, air-frying can reduce overall calorie intake by 70 to 80 percent on average. That's because, like their name implies, air fryers use air instead of oil to cook food to a fried-like consistency.
In addition to saving calories, air fryers can also save you time. Cucuzza notes that you whip up your favorite chicken breast recipes or make baked chicken thighs in an air fryer in considerably less time than you could by using the oven. The bottom line is that there's not necessarily one method of cooking that's the healthiest. You have several options, which include:
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy-Cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor and Cut Calories"
- American Heart Association: "Healthier Cooking Methods"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Air-Frying: Is It As Healthy As You Think?"
- The BMJ: "Association of Fried Food Consumption With All Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study"
- 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"