There’s absolutely no question that we love our fried food. In fact, some of the most quintessentially American dishes are prepared with the frying technique: Fried chicken, French fries, fried shrimp, and corn dogs. In fact, many types of fried food are now available, all covered with a crunchy, deep-fried outer coating. These foods can range from fried butter, fried bubble gum, or fried Coke to the fried cheesecake, fried bacon, or fried Oreo cookies. No matter how you look at that crispy golden coating, Americans love fried food.
However, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that fried zucchini slices are actually healthy, the reality is that fried food is associated with a number of chronic health issues. What are some of the health risks, and how can you reduce those risks without sacrificing your favorite fried foods?
Health Risks Associated with Fried Foods
Most fried foods, particularly those that you would get at a fast food restaurant, tend to be high in fat, calories, and sodium. Numerous studies have found that overindulging in fried foods carries an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and cardiac disease.
The main culprit is the hydrogenated oils that are often used to cook fried foods, particularly in fast food restaurants. Hydrogenated oils are high in trans fats, which raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower good (HDL) levels.
This problem is compounded if the oil is reused, which is a common practice, as the food will then absorb more of it. Furthermore, if you love your French fries or hash browns overcooked so that they are extra brown and crispy, you could be at higher risk for developing cancer. If certain foods, particularly potatoes, are fried at high temperatures for a long time, the amino acid asparagine will react with sugars in the food to form acrylamide. Studies on lab rats have shown that this chemical can cause cancer.
If you are not ready to give up fried foods entirely, there are ways to reduce them in your diet, and make them healthier at home.
First, don’t order fried foods when you eat out. Instead, use olive, soybean, or canola oils for frying at home. These oils contain poly-unsaturated and mono-saturated fats, which are healthier.
Don’t fry your food for too long, especially potatoes. Store them at room temperature, as sugars can build up if potatoes are stored in the fridge.
Finally, drain off all excess oil from your food, and use paper towels to soak up the last bits of oil. Don’t reuse the oil, but instead use a fresh batch every time that you fry.
Opting out of fried onion rings or French fries in favor of a salad when you eat out is always a great way to keep on track. The goal is not necessarily to deprive yourself entirely of your favorite fried foods, but to be aware of what you are eating and how you can make better choices.