January 22, 2024/Nutrition

Are Air Fryers Healthy?

The popular cooking method can help you cut down on fat without losing the flavor and texture of your favorite foods

Four pieces of cooked chicken in an air fryer

You dream about fried chicken, and french fries make you swoon. Alas, what your heart wants isn’t always good for your heart health. What’s a fried-food lover to do?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Maybe you’re considering adding an air fryer to your kitchen gadget lineup, but is air frying healthy?

“Air frying is a healthier option because it essentially eliminates added oils,” confirms registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

But what is air frying and how does it work?

Despite the name, air fryers don’t technically fry food. Think of them as mini convection ovens. These countertop appliances use a fan to blow hot air around a basket that contains your food. The result: Fries, veggies and other foods that crisp up quickly on the outside while staying moist on the inside.

You can use an air fryer to cook almost anything, like macaroni and cheese or even s’mores, but it can also be used for foods like vegetables and chicken.

And to be fair, an air fryer won’t perfectly simulate the texture of french fries cooked in a vat of hot grease. But it will get you closer to that crispy outcome than baking or steaming your foods will.

“Air frying creates that great crispy texture you’re looking for, without any oil,” Zumpano says.

Air fryer benefits

An air fryer can be an efficient way to get dinner on the table. Are you ready to give an air fryer a try? Zumpano explains some of the health benefits of an air fryer.

It’s healthier than frying in oil

What’s wrong with oil? Even healthier oils, including olive oil and avocado oil, contain a lot of calories. Gram for gram, fats (such as cooking oil) contain more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates.


When you’re frying food, those calories can add up quickly.

“Deep frying uses a tremendous amount of oil, and even pan frying meat or vegetables requires a fair amount,” Zumpano says.

Deep-fried foods can also be high in trans fats. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils (liquid fats made solid, like vegetable shortening) that can raise LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Fried foods from restaurants are especially likely to have been bubbled in oils containing trans fats or use unhealthy seed oils.

Using an air fryer — which requires about a tablespoon of oil — may cut calories that you’d normally get from deep frying foods by up to 80%.

It may reduce acrylamide

What is acrylamide? It’s a chemical that’s formed during certain methods of high-heat cooking: frying, roasting and baking. It’s present and forms in plant-based foods such as potatoes and grains. Meats, dairy and fish have low or negligible amounts.

And while more research is needed, there have been some animal studies that show acrylamide in high doses may lead to cancer. Another study shows that an air fryer can reduce acrylamide by 90%. But it’s important to note that some amounts of acrylamide still exist in foods cooked in an air fryer.

Air fryer health risks

Do air fryers cause cancer?

Studies show that using an air fryer can increase the levels of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) in fish. COPs are linked to an increase in heart disease, cancer and other medical conditions.

You may have also heard about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogens that are produced as fumes when foods are cooked at a high temperature. While PAHs may form during the air frying process, it’s a lot less, as air frying uses less oil than deep frying.


“Food prepared in an air fryer still propose some risk, but much lower than in deep-fried foods,” notes Zumpano.

“Limit the amount of oil and heat used to greater minimize the risk, never reuse oil and avoid inhaling smoke generated by high-heat cooking. Also, use an exhaust fan,” she recommends.

You may have also wondered if air fryers emit radiation. Unlike a microwave, which uses radiation to heat food, an air fryer generates heat from a fan and circulates it around food like a convection oven.

Bottom line?

So, is an air fryer healthy?

Air fryers may be better for you than deep fryers, but they’re only as healthy as the food you put inside. They won’t magically remove the saturated fat from bacon or the trans fats from a bag of processed chicken wings. To reap the benefits, reach for better-for-you options like vegetables and lean proteins.

“Think of the air fryer as a way to enhance healthier foods, so they’re even more tempting,” Zumpano suggests.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

assorted vessels of olive oil on a wooden table with olives in spoon
January 16, 2024/Nutrition
6 Major Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO is full of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which aid your body in multiple ways

person at grocery store reading oil label
October 3, 2023/Nutrition
Seed Oils: Are They Actually Toxic?

Often found in ultra-processed foods, these oils can cause inflammation and diseases

Closeup of a lunch box with potato chips and a donut, food with transfat content.
June 5, 2023/Nutrition
Trans Fat Has Been Banned, but That Doesn’t Mean You’re Free From It

Trace amounts of trans fat can still lurk in your foods, and they can add up

Rosemary oil in an essentials oil vial with rosemary clippings in the background.
March 30, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
Growth Market: How Rosemary Oil Can Help Your Hair

Studies show that the herby oil can lead to longer, healthier hair

Cooking oil being poured.
January 17, 2023/Nutrition
Choosing and Using Cooking Oils: What To Use and When

The best cooking oils contain healthier fats, and EVOO wins best in show

Variety of cheese.
January 3, 2023/Nutrition
Is Cheese Good for You?

Moderation is key: A good source of calcium and protein, but it’s also high in calories and sodium

Black seed of cumin in a scoop on tabletop sitting by a vial of oil with dropper suspended above.
November 29, 2022/Nutrition
What Is Black Seed Oil?

An extract from seeds produced by the fruit of an ancient plant

Person wondering about micro and macronutrients with some of those elements in a thought cloud.
October 4, 2022/Nutrition
What Are Macronutrients and Micronutrients?

These essential elements from fats, protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals help your body function properly

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey