Air-Frying: Is It As Healthy As You Think?

The pros and cons of using devices that cook without oil

Chicken being air fried

If you know someone who swears by their air-fryer, you may be tempted to get one to give it a shot. After all, it’s tempting: These countertop devices circulate heat at high temperatures to fry, grill or bake without using oil. They create a crispy outside layer while leaving food moist and chewy on the inside.

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We talked with dietitian Ariana Cucuzza, RD, to find out if an air-fryer is worth a spot on your counter. The good news? She says overall, air-frying has more benefits than drawbacks. 

The upside

The main reason people love air-frying is that, compared with deep-frying, it significantly reduces overall calorie intake. In fact, Cucuzza says, most people reduce their calorie intake by 70 to 80%, on average, when using air fryers.

Air fryers are also time-efficient. “You can bake a chicken breast faster in an air fryer than you can in your oven, and clean-up is typically easier,” she says.

Another benefit: If you have picky vegetable eaters at home (I’m thinking of kids, in particular), air-frying is a great way to crisp up veggies and make them tastier.

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Lastly, unlike deep-frying, air-frying typically won’t fill your home with the smell of fried foods for hours. 

The downside

One drawback to air-frying is that it prompts some people to think, “This is great — I can eat fried food every day!”

“Although a low-fat, air-fried diet sounds enticing, you’d end up missing out on the wonderful benefits of plant-based fats such as avocado oil and olive oil,” Cucuzza says. (It’s easy to forget that high-quality fat, in moderation, is critical for brain and hormone health.)

Air-frying also produces high temperatures at a very rapid rate, thus making it extremely easy to burn food. And charred food may be carcinogenic.

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In addition, Cucuzza adds, because most devices cook 1 to 3 pounds of food at a time, it can be challenging to air-fry meals for a large family. 

The best foods to air-fry

Any foods you’re used to frying, like potatoes and chicken, generally turn out really well in the air fryer.

“If you’re looking for something to air-fry, I’d recommend home-made sweet potato fries,” Cucuzza says. “It can be difficult to make them crispy in a conventional oven. Instead, sprinkle them with your favorite seasoning, throw them in the air fryer, and enjoy!” 

One last thought: If you want to invest in an air fryer, Cucuzza recommends looking for models that use BPA-free plastic.

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