Medical Mythbuster: Fried Foods Won’t Harm My Health…

If your doctor has told you to limit or avoid eating fried foods, it’s for a good reason. This is because there is strong evidence that regularly eating fried foods can cause serious health problems.

Experts believe that the type of oil used for frying foods is the main issue. Most of the food we eat today is fried in seed oils (also called vegetable oils). These oils, which are made from seeds and beans, include canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and rice bran oil. These oils are used for frying in fast-food restaurants and a majority of other restaurants, too.

One of the biggest issues with seed oils is that they are a highly processed food. To turn them into oil, the seeds or beans are crushed, bleached, refined, and then usually heated to very high temperatures. The processing often includes a petroleum-based solvent, such as hexane, to maximize the amount of oil extracted from the seeds or beans. All this processing is done to make the oils more appetizing and give them a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, soon after the oils are made they begin to chemically change due to oxidation. This is a natural process caused by exposure to heat, light and oxygen. Many researchers believe the oxidized oils contribute to inflammatory health problems after the seed oils are consumed, especially in the small and large intestines.

Another issue is how frying affects seed oils. The high heat of frying chemically alters the oils and produces dangerous compounds. These chemical compounds, called aldehydes, are linked to heart disease and other health problems. Martin Grootveld, a professor of Bioanalytical Chemistry and Chemical Pathology at De Montfort University in England, has performed detailed studies on seed oils. His research showed that a typical meal of fish and chips fried in canola oil contained as much as 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organization. In contrast, Professor Grootveld’s studies showed that frying in natural fats such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil or lard produced much lower levels of dangerous aldehydes.

There are other health studies that link fried foods to obesity and other health problems, including gastric cancer and prostate cancer. It’s no wonder that many doctors often warn patients of the danger of fried foods!

If you enjoy eating fried food, frying your food at home in an air fryer is one way to make it safer. Cooking in an air fryer only uses a small amount oil but still gives food a nice crisp taste. Try basting with a small amount of melted clarified butter (also called ghee) or avocado oil. Both have high smoke points and can be safely used in small amounts to add flavor to foods cooked in an air fryer.

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