Air fryers are pretty new as far as kitchen tech goes (especially compared to the oven which has been around since 1490!). Personally, I love how technology makes cooking faster, tastier, and easier. But is air frying healthier than other cooking methods?
Is putting food into the air fryer actually leading to unexpected dangers? Or is it a safe way to cook food fast without a lot of preparation and clean up?
Frankly, I’m a big air fryer fan! (And you can see why in our recent review of the Black + Decker Purify Air Fryer here.) I wasn’t sure either way so I dug into the research to see what top health experts say on it. Here’s what I found:
What Are The Facts?
We know that cooking method DOES impact the health. There’s plenty of research on that (specific links are at the bottom of this post for you to check out.)
Specifically, high-heat cooking techniques, like grilled, may increase cancer risk. Cooking with high heat increases the amount of polyaromatic hydrocarbons in your food.
These are bad. In other words, the high heat turns what you cook into these compounds that are correlated with cancer.
Now, this doesn’t mean high-heat cooking methods, like grilling, directly causes cancer, that’s a stretch!
So, What Causes Cancer In The First Place?
What causes cancer in the first place?
It’s a tough question to answer because there are so many variables to it!
What the research does see is that people with cancer seem to have certain things in common. Meaning, if you’re obese, eat a lot of rancid oils (oils exposed to high heats), eating carcinogens in general, or lacking in antioxidants.. you’re significantly more likely to develop cancer.
What About Air Fryers?
We do know that air fryers use less oil than other cooking methods. Really, an air fryer is more similar to a convection oven. The food is cooked with intense heat circulated by a fan to give you crispy food mainly through drying out the food.
For example, one study found that french fries have 75% less fat in the air fryer.
This is a double-whammy against those traits we listed above that are correlated to cancer.
First, fat is the most energy-dense thing you can eat! At about 9 calories per gram it’s over double the energy of a gram of pure sugar.
This means, that 120 calories of oil can fit in a tablespoon.. Which is about the same energy you’d get from a medium sized banana. When you eat less added oils you’ll still feel just as full and satisfied yet you can easily reduce the amount of calories you eat.
In other words, you can eat the same things and still lose weight!
Plus, the little oil that is used during air frying isn’t reheated. If the oil isn’t reheated, you’re not going to consume as much rancid oils and reducing your intake of those cancer-related foods.
Are There Any Dangers?
We do see some high-heat products formed in air fryers. One study specifically shared that the high temperatures used to cook fish in an air fryer are associated with the formation of cholesterol oxidation products.
Cholesterol oxidation products aren’t the best for us. However, we do need to cook food. And cooking with any sort of high heat will not only up the amount of these cancer-related products but also make the food easier to absorb, tastier, and easier to digest.
And Let’s Count All The Benefits Of Air Fryers
It’s seen that low intake of antioxidants, meaning fruits, vegetables, and spices, is connected to an increased risk of cancer.
Using an air fryer here is a huge benefit because it means the air fryer isn’t the problem- it’s what you put in the air fryer.
And no- I’m not about to go on a whole health tirade! What I’m sharing is if you can make crispy delicious air fried foods out of veggies too, or adding some crispy coatings to foods you already love, you may reduce your risk of cancer.
For example, one study showed that just by seasoning with herbs and spices you can drastically increase the antioxidant power of your foods. Plus, this seasoning makes everything taste better.
Also, remember you cannot eat EVERYTHING. If you’re skipping the fast food deep fried french fries in oil that hasn’t been changed the whole day…. and instead air frying your own french fries, you’ll be reducing your expose to those cancer-related foods.
And if you end up air frying up some broccoli and indulging in some crispy air fried veggies.. that’ll just push the needle in the anti-cancer direction even more.
Frankly, cancer is a confusing topic. There are so many lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors that control it.
Even with smoking cigarettes- which is seen to increase your chance of cancer.. you’ll likely here anecdotal stories of family members that smoked up in their 90’s and had great health.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life BUT we can hedge our bets using the best science we’ve seen.
Really, air fryers aren’t more dangerous than other cooking methods- and if using this quick convenient way to prepare food means..
- Less dinning out.
- Less processed foods.
- More vegetables and whole foods.
Then you’re well on your way to improving your overall health and reducing your risk of cancer. Let me know what you think below! Do you love using the air fryer? Are you worried about any other kitchen gear that may hurt your health?
4. Teruel MR, Gordon M, Linares MB, Garrido M, Ahromrit A, Niranjan K. A comparative study of the characteristics of French fries produced by deep fat frying and air frying. J Food Sci. 2015;80(2):E349-E358. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12753