One of the questions I get on occasion from some of my patients is, “Should I get an air fryer?” Kitchen gadgets can make cooking easier and air fryers are one of the kitchen gadgets that has been all the rage over the past few years. Let us take a closer look at this. What exactly is an air fryer and what can it do for you? Well, it is essentially a smaller version of a convection oven which heats up more quickly as it is a smaller appliance. The air fryer produces high heat which circulates quickly, essentially encircling the food which makes the food crispy, thus the similarity to frying in oil.
The single most important distinction between traditional frying and air frying is that when you air fry, you are not using oil. With “deep frying”, you actually place food in the oil, so the food absorbs oil as it cooks. When you use an air fryer, you get the crispy or crunchy without the food having to sit in oil. Hence, as one might imagine, this reduces both unwanted calories and fat. Swapping a deep fryer for an air fryer may be a good start with respect to cutting calories. Nevertheless, what is cooked in your air fryer is also important. It may seem like a “no-brainer” that cooking whole foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, kale, salmon and other types of lean proteins will definitely be a healthier way to go. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the air fryer cannot change a food which is not healthy into a food that is healthy. Processed foods already high in sodium, fat and additives will still not be a great alternative to an overall healthy lifestyle. Remember that what you cook in your air fryer will make all the difference. If you just put highly processed corn dogs in to cook, you will still end up with a highly processed corn dog. You are saving a few fat calories by not frying it traditionally but not much else has changed. The long and short of it is that, using an air fryer can help you maintain a lower intake of unhealthy fats and cut down on calories because you are eliminating the submerging of foods in unhealthy and calorie-packed cooking oil.
If you choose healthy foods to cook and are just looking for a way to make them crispy or crunchy, or just want to eliminate time in heating up your convection oven or don’t have one, the air fryer just may be your new best kitchen gadget.
Carrie Gustafson RDN, LD