Do Air Fryers Destroy The Nutrients In Our Food?
We’ve heard of methods of cooking that reduce or even remove the nutrients in our foods. In our day and age, healthy options seem to trump the stores. Whenever a new trend comes, it comes with a new promise. And air fryers are no different, they claim to replicate the wonders of deep-fried foods in a healthier way.
With the air fryer being marketed as the healthier alternative, one would hope that it has the ability to preserve nutrients while cooking. Well, preserving them entirely is certainly not possible. When boiling, steaming or grilling vegetables and meats, they lose about 40% of their key nutrients.
I decided to do some research on the subject to clarify if the process that takes place in the air fryer has a negative effect on nutrients or not.
Do air fryers destroy nutrients? Yes, but at a much lower rate than many other methods of cooking, making it a healthier alternative. No matter how you decide to cook your food, you will see a loss of nutrition. The rate of nutrient depletion is increased in moist environments, which speaks in favor of the air fryer as it circulates dry heat, not moist.
There’s no way around the fact that heat and water combined alter the way nutrients behave in our food. Both water and heat are often present when cooking food, therefore, you can expect a reduction in nutrients of some grade when cooking, no matter the method used.
However, some methods are better than others at nutrient retention. Methods that expose foods to heat and water for short amounts of time seem to be beneficial when it comes to nutrient retention.
Another thing to take note of is the way some vegetables respond to the process of cooking, according to this article, the antioxidants and minerals in vegetables are more accessible to us when cooking them.
This means that the chemical reaction that takes place when food is heated can degrade some nutrients, and at the same time, make other nutrients more accessible.
Air frying, along with steaming, grilling, roasting, and baking are the best methods of preparing food to retain nutrients. However, this is only true as long as the food is protected from coming in direct contact with the heat source.
Wrapping foods in foil is one way of protecting them from direct heat. While aluminum foil or tin foil can be used in the air fryer, but it’s more effective on a regular grill where food is exposed to flames with only a grill rack to separate them.
In an air fryer, the basket protects the food from coming in direct contact with the heat source. Combining the method of circulating dry heat with the design of the air fryer’s cooking area which protects the food results in a healthier way of cooking food, and of course, it enables the air fryer to retain more nutrients than many other methods would.
Do Air Fryers Retain More Nutrients Than Other Appliances?
Other methods, such as boiling, poaching or simmering are not as good at retaining nutrients as air frying. The primary reason for that being that these methods cook food in very hot liquids for long periods of time, which depletes the nutrients.
The methods mentioned above are actually some of the worst methods, they seem to deplete nutrients in food quite easily. Nevertheless, when boiling, the nutrients are often released into the water, where they are preserved. If one should decide to make broth or soup with the leftover water, one would absorb the nutrients that were removed while boiling.
Comparing an air fryer’s ability to retain nutrients to that of a deep fryer tells us that the air fryer is a much healthier option than the deep fryer, not only because it reduces fat content in food, but also because it doesn’t deplete nutrients at the same rate that a deep fryer does.
Frying food in a deep fryer involves submerging food into a bath of hot oil, which depletes food of its nutrients. The oil is absorbed into the food, increasing the saturated fats and calories in it by significant amounts.
Other methods that also retain nutrients to a higher degree
- Grilling (If food is protected)
Do Air Fryers Form Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical used to make polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers, two substances that can be found in food packages, adhesives, tobacco smoke. They are also present in many industrial processes.
Why do people worry about acrylamide?
Studies have shown that exposure to acrylamide increases the risk of multiple types of cancer. Once in our body, acrylamide is converted into a substance called glycidamide. The converted substance is, according to studies, harmful to our DNA and may be a factor in the development of cancer in our bodies.
Where do air fryers come in?
Well, acrylamide can also be produced in some foods, mainly food that contains asparagine, an amino acid.
Nevertheless, acrylamide doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, in order for it to form, the food has to be cooked in high temperatures for a longer period of time. Which, thankfully, rarely happens in an air fryer.
Take potatoes, for example. They are probably the most frequently cooked food in both air and deep fryers.
They contain asparagine, but in order for the substance to form, the amino acid must be exposed to certain sugars (which carbohydrate-rich foods may contain) in combination with high temperatures for longer periods of time.
This tells me that the method of cooking used can limit the formation of acrylamide substantially. By cutting cooking times, one can decrease the formation of acrylamide. Which speaks in favor of the air fryer and its speedy cooking.
According to this study, the formation of dietary acrylamide is reduced by 90% when cooking in an air fryer.
The ability to tweak time and temperature, use presets made for specific foods, and auto-shut off features ensure that food in the air fryer doesn’t overcook. When overcooked, the risk of cancer may increase.
Therefore, you want to avoid the dark-brown surface of burnt or fried food.
Are Air Fryers Toxic In Any Way?
In comparison to the deep frying, the method of air frying food is a much healthier option, as it reduces fat content and the formation of potentially harmful compounds. However, no matter if food is air-fried or deep-fried, one should always try to keep a balanced diet.
Eating the same thing or preparing it using the same method for a long period of time without variation will most likely lead to a shortage of various minerals and vitamins.
But to answer the question. No, air fryers are not toxic, instead, you’ll find that cooking in an air fryer is a quite healthy alternative in comparison to many other methods.
- Air fryers reduce the formation of acrylamide
- Air fryers reduce fat content in food (While we need fat in our diets, we tend to eat more than we need, which leads to a caloric surplus and weight gain)
- Air fryers retain nutrients better than most methods
- Air fryers come in variations that are free from irritants such as BPA.
- Ceramic and stainless steel variations of the air fryer basket have been made for those who want to avoid Teflon or other non-stick coatings.
Air fryers are not unhealthy or dangerous, they offer a speedy, convenient and healthy solution to solve the side-effects of deep-frying without sacrificing the taste and appearance.
The only thing to consider is the state of the air fryer’s components. When non-stick coating starts to flake from either the basket or pan used in the air fryer, the component should not be used in the air fryer.
When the coating flakes, metal is exposed, and then, when the air fryer is used, the metal may overheat and release harmful fumes.
To prevent the air fryer’s basket from flaking you should clean it after each use. Make sure to do so gently, using a soft sponge and warm water. Using a rough brush will scrape the coating right off the basket.
Is it safe to use an air fryer? Yes, air fryers are, generally, safe to use. When it comes to nutrition and harmful compounds, the air fryer is less harmful than many other methods of preparing food. However, there are documented cases of air fryers catching fire, so I wouldn’t recommend cooking without a smoke detector nearby. But that rule applies to pretty much every kitchen appliance used for cooking.
Can air fryers cause cancer? Frying food in an air fryer reduces the risks of developing cancer greatly in comparison to a deep fryer. The formation of the potentially harmful substance acrylamide is reduced by up to 90% in the air fryer. Still, a balanced diet is most likely the healthiest option.
What are the side-effects of air frying? There are no serious side-effects to cooking in an air fryer as long as the food isn’t overcooked. Deep-frying food, on the other hand, is linked to a series of negative health effects, at this stage, one can only speculate if the same effects can be linked to overconsumption of air-fried food.
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Six Principles to Follow When Starting on an Autoimmune Diet
Inspired by a combination of his work treating patients with autoimmune disease and working in his garden, Dr. Cowan has developed six principles to help patients create healthy, natural diets. He emphasizes the importance of sourcing quality food from your immediate environment and consuming the correct macronutrients.
The following excerpt is from Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness, by Thomas Cowan, MD. It has been adapted for the web.
The Cowan Autoimmune Diet
The Cowan Autoimmune Diet is based on the etiology of autoimmune disease as I describe it in this book. For example, one of the first steps in the progression of any autoimmune disease is disturbance in the gut microbiome; this can be addressed through a proper diet. Another factor is deterioration of the intestinal villi; this can also be addressed through a proper diet. The principles in the Cowan Autoimmune Diet are by no means unique; they can be found in the GAPS diet, the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, and the Wahls Protocol. These are all wonderful dietary approaches and I have used each of them successfully in my many years of treating people with autoimmune diseases.
I have a slightly different take than these other approaches, which I’ve developed in my role not only as a physician treating patients with autoimmune diseases but also as a gardener. The other perspective I bring comes from my emphasis on water. Water molecules make up more than 99.9 percent of the molecules in our bodies. And the state of our health is in many ways a result of how well we are able to structure this water in our cells and tissues. Finally, while the thrust of this book is on the understanding and treatment of autoimmune diseases, and this diet is considered a part of that therapy, we must never lose sight of the importance of finding joy in our lives.
Food is an integral part, in every culture and society, in the attainment of this joy. The sensual quality of food, including not just its taste, but its aroma and appearance, is an essential part of this diet and an essential part of any true healing. Our quest should be for a life of abundance, joy, and meaning. There is no greater venue for executing this quest than in our relationship with food. With that introduction, here are the principles of the Cowan Autoimmune Diet.
In some ways, in a list of the top ten dietary principles, attention to food quality should be numbers one through nine. As there is such an intimate connection between pesticide or herbicide use and diseases, including polio and autism, it is imperative for anyone suffering from any autoimmune disease, or any disease of any kind, to pay strict attention to the quality of food they’re eating. By “quality,” I refer not only to the care of soil and pastures that forms the foundation of healthy food, but also to more subtle aspects, such as the correct time to harvest vegetables and the proper way to store and process the foods we eat.
A commitment to food quality needs to be a total commitment—meaning the complete abandonment of inferior-quality foods. Here are the “rules”:
- The best food is properly foraged or caught wild. This means the forager or hunter needs to be aware of sustainable foraging practices and must avoid contaminated land and water. The hunter needs to be aware of how to humanely kill and dress his prey. The next-best quality will come from pastured animals, followed by food grown on biodynamic farms or gardens or on small-scale permaculture farms. Following that is food produced by small-scale family farms or gardens or food grown in your own organic homestead or garden. The final acceptable source is food grown on large-scale certified organic farms. For help finding these types of foods, the Weston A. Price Foundation shopping guide can be invaluable (see recommended resources).
- Processing should either be not at all or by traditional techniques that have stood the test of time. Foods that undergo no processing include fresh salad or cucumbers right from the garden or farmer’s market. Examples of traditional processing techniques, which in many cases enhance the quality of the food, include traditional lacto-fermentation; making butter or fermented dairy products (e.g., kefir, yogurt) from pastured, 100 percent grass-fed whole milk; or the production of traditionally cured meat products such as bacon or prosciutto. Other quality-enhancing processing techniques include making sourdough bread from freshly ground heirloom grains, soaking or sprouting of seeds and nuts, and making lacto-fermented drinks from excess garden produce. These and many more techniques for enhancing food quality can be found in the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell and Mary G. Enig.
- Finally, and especially relevant to those who have their own gardens, leaf and fruit vegetables such as kale, lettuce, zucchini, and peppers should be harvested as early in the morning as possible, whereas root vegetables such as carrots, beets, parsnips, and horseradish are best harvested in the evening. While this may seem like a small point, the energy of the plant is most concentrated in the leaves early in the morning, enhancing the flavor and allowing them to be stored longer in the refrigerator. On the other hand, through the day the energy and nutrient flow of the plant drops down into the roots, so root vegetables will store and retain their freshness longer when harvested in the evening.
Dietary macronutrient content refers to the proportion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The optimal relationship of macronutrients in our diet can be loosely described as liberal good fats, modest protein, and low carbohydrate. While I hesitate to give numbers, the best guide is that each meal should contain a sufficient amount of fats. The four main fats to use are grass-fed butter, grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil. Other fats and oils that can be included (provided they are the best quality) include lard from pastured pigs, beef tallow, and duck fat. With other plant oils, we run into the problem of extraction and production of most seed and flower oils; most seeds and flowers typically need high-temperature grinding in order to extract the oils. This high-heat process harms the oils and decreases the nutrient content. The only acceptable quality source I know for true low-heat oil extraction, followed by the preservation of the oil in Miron jars, is a company called Andreas Seed Oils (see recommended resources).
Protein generally comes from a modest serving at each meal of animal products, which can include fish, meat, eggs, whole-milk raw cheeses, or organ meats. By “modest,” I mean about the size of a deck of cards; more than that is unnecessary and can create an undue burden on the kidneys. In addition to this portion of protein at each meal, soup or bone broth from any quality animal source should also be included. Everyone should eat at least one cup of gelatin-containing broth each day; those with an autoimmune disease should eat one cup up to three times a day. The gelatin proteins in bone broth are key for healing and sealing the gut and are therefore at the core of my autoimmune treatment program. All broth should come from the bones of 100 percent grass-fed, pastured animals in order to avoid contamination from chemicals such as glyphosate that are found in all commercial animal feed. There are almost no exceptions to this.
Finally, carbohydrate content should be low. This is the only time I give people a specific number: generally between 45 and 75 grams of net carbohydrates per day. There are many good books, particularly those that advocate very low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets, that can guide you in how to count carbohydrate grams in your diet. Fats are a more efficient fuel for our bodies than carbohydrates are, and our true need for dietary carbohydrates is small. As advocated for in the GAPS diet, most people with an active autoimmune disease should go six months without any disaccharides, which means the elimination of all grains and beans.
When signs of trouble, such as autoimmune symptoms emerge, we must redouble our efforts to introduce beneficial microbes into our GI tract. We can play in soil, gardens, and compost, particularly with our bare hands, and eat an abundant supply of as great a diversity of microbes as possible. We can do this by bringing the art of fermentation back into our homes. Many wonderful books have been written about how to ferment foods, but none are better than The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. Daily consumption of as wide a variety of lacto-fermented foods, preferably home or locally made, is key in the restoration of health. Start with fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, beet kvass, and kimchi, and then move to homemade cultured dairy products, fruits, and other beverages. For those with the inclination, even the traditional fermentation of meat and other animal products will increase the diversity in your diet and microbial consumption. Eat at least a small amount of fermented vegetables or drinks with each meal and, depending on your tolerance, increase consumption of traditional lacto-fermented foods to about 10 percent of your daily diet. Over time, just this change is an effective step in the restoration of a healthy, diverse microbiome.
Exposure to as wide a variety of foods as possible is the key to ensuring that you will consume all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other disease-prevention agents you need that the plant and animal world makes available to us. I have been trying to incorporate this principle in my life for decades, to the point of counting precisely how many different plants I eat in a month. The key to this is to eat seasonally, grow your own garden, include perennials, and use herbs and spices liberally in cooking. Everyone should spend a month keeping track of their personal diversity consumption; aim for between twelve and fifteen different plants each day and between sixty and eighty each month. Eat widely from all the healthy animal products available in your area. Connect with a hunter in your area to have access to otherwise unavailable wild game and other hard-to-obtain animal products. Be creative and learn to use wild foods in flavorful dishes. In so doing you reaffirm your connection to the world of nature around you.
I put a lot of emphasis on the quality of water in our cells, tissues, and bodily fluids such as blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid. The quality of the water in our bodies is related to the quality of water we consume in our food and drinks. The best water is highly mineralized, highly structured at a temperature of around 4° Celsius, which is generally only attainable from glacier runoff in the few remaining pristine places on earth. So, knowing that the perfect solution to water consumption doesn’t exist, we need to try and obtain the best possible water for our bodies.
When you choose a water source, the water should contain as few contaminants as possible. This includes everything from the fluoride and chlorine/chloramines put in most municipal water supplies, to such things as pharmaceutical drugs and agricultural chemicals. Besides getting the “stuff ” out of the water, healthy water should be in motion, particularly in a spiral motion. Water in a spiral motion, as it often exists in nature, is energized and structured. In plant experiments, it’s been shown that watering plants with structured, vortexed water increases the vigor and health of the plants. I have frequently been impressed when observing positive health effects in my patients who commit to consuming only structured water.
Trust Your Instincts
The final principle of the Cowan Autoimmune Diet is for you to use yourself as the most important feedback device in determining which foods work best for you. Understanding the effects foods have on you is a skill that improves with practice and commitment. The commitment here is to pay attention and honor your instincts. If you have any sense that a certain food doesn’t agree with you, skip it for at least a week, then try it again and pay close attention to how you feel after eating it. Gradually your instincts will sharpen and become clearer, but only if you make an absolute commitment to pay attention and honor your inner voice that informs how you react and feel related to your food intake. Sharpening of instincts happens to everyone who makes an absolute commitment to eating real foods; with this commitment you will be well on your way to having a unique diet, designed for you, by you, that works for you. Commitment is the holy grail of dietary therapy.
To summarize, these six dietary principles should get you off to a good start in organizing your autoimmune diet. For the first six months omit all grains, beans, and noncultured dairy products, which can then slowly be reintroduced. Be creative in the procurement, processing, and final preparation of your foods. Enjoy your meals, make mealtime a family and connection time, and consult the various books on traditional foods that I recommend for further ideas on the organization of your daily diet.
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Foods for a Healthy Bacterial Flora
The food you eat has a direct impact on your gut and overall health. Eating sugary foods feeds the bad bacteria in our mouths that eventually lead to health problems down the road. Probiotic foods are the key to taking care of the important good bacteria in our mouths and intestines.
The following is an excerpt from It’s All in Your Mouth by Dr. Dominik Nischwitz. It has been adapted for the web.
Listen to the following excerpt from the audiobook of It’s All In Your Mouth.It has been adapted for the web.
If the bacterial flora in the mouth and gut are healthy, this contributes greatly to the body’s immune system.
Probiotic foods—foods that are good for a healthy microbial flora—improve the defense mechanisms of the epithelium in the gastrointestinal tract and help with the utilization of nutrients and energy.
The healthier the mouth and the oral microbia are, the healthier the digestive tract, immune system, and body are as a whole. Unhealthy and especially sweet foods are unfortunately not only appetizing to us, but also favorites of the bad bacteria in the mouth and intestine. If we feed ourselves these foods, we also feed these bacteria and help them to grow.
Sugar and other simple carbohydrates, such as those we eat today in large quantities, are not normally found in nature. When we do eat these foods in nature, first they grow in such a way that we have to work to be able to consume them, and second they support the growth of healthy bacteria. This is because in nature, sugar only comes in its natural shell. When humans or animals want to get to carbohydrates, they usually have to break up this shell of plant fibers first.
This shell provides the microbes in the mouth and intestine with fibers that help to form a balanced microbial environment. Now, however, industrialization has given us access to white refined sugar and ground white flour. These are the main culprits that upset the microbia. Our bodies and teeth are the ones that have to suffer the consequences.6 The shells in which carbohydrates are usually found contain fibers that promote what is known as the anti-obesity effect. This means they help to reduce our weight and break down fat, as well as being anti-inflammatory.
If we regularly only eat macronutrients from protein, carbohydrates, and fat without eating enough vegetables, the microbia in the large intestine starve because these nutrients are all absorbed by the small intestine. The only option our cohabitants occupying the large intestine have is to eat the mucous membrane, which of course leads to inflammation in the body.
Many of the fibers in our diet, especially the
insoluble types (also known as prebiotics), however, provide the perfect snack for our friends in the large intestine, and as an added bonus, they also metabolize short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), providing us with energy directly. Now, that’s a win-win situation.
Probiotics, which are good for a healthy intestinal flora, are found mainly in fermented dishes such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and gherkins. These are of great value as a dietary supplement, especially for anyone who has ever taken antibiotics, and are particularly useful just after a course of antibiotics. Good supplements contain at least four to six types of different strains of probiotics in large quantities (one to forty billion per unit).
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers. These are anti-inflammatory, improve mineral absorption, and serve as food for our intestinal bacteria. As described above, the intestinal bacteria from insoluble fiber produce an important energy source for us: SCFAs. They occur naturally in a large variety of plants, such as garlic, chicory, artichokes, onions, and asparagus.
Ideally we should aim to consume a minimum of 10 to 20 grams of these each day.
Some good sources include psyllium husks, guar gum, and FOS (fructooligosaccharides). A supplement that contains both pre- and probiotics is therefore the ideal solution.
6. Steven Lin, The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link Between Your Teeth, Real Food, and Life-Changing Natural Health (London: Hay House, 2018), 123.
The possibilities with koji are endless; cheese, condiments, bread, the list goes on! Let’s not forget about that sweet tooth. It might seem crazy, but koji sorbet is sweet and tangy, making a perfect treat for a warm summer’s evening. If you’ve mastered the simple homemade koji recipe, put your koji to work in this delicious, … Continue reading
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The Three Pillars of Immune Health Staying healthy is at the top of everyone’s to-do lists. But what is the best way to do it? The key to good health is keeping your immune system in check. While that sounds daunting, there are a lot of small tweaks we can make in our everyday lives to keep our immune system in … Continue reading The Three Pillars of Immune Health Chelsea Green Publishing
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bacterial flora, fermented foods, gut health, healthy gut, probiotic, probiotic foods Read The Book It’s All in Your Mouth Biological Dentistry and the Surprising Impact of Oral Health on Whole Body Wellness $24.95 Add to cart Subscribe to updates from Chelsea Green
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