Why are air fryers so popular?
Air fryers are a relatively new addition to the vast range of kitchen appliances available, firstly being seen as recently as 2010. While they are a new addition, their popularity is soaring and the growth of the air fryer market is expected to continue to grow at quite a fast rate. One of the main selling points of air fryers is the idea that they’re able to reduce the fat content of our foods and meals. This lends itself nicely to the question of “can air fryers help with weight loss?”
A quick search on Google Trends clearly indicates the growing popularity of air fryers. And while they have been around since 2010, it isn’t until only a few years ago that their popularity has shot up. The image below shows the increase in searches for the term “air fryer” since 2010, up until 2022. Interestingly enough, the amount of searches tends to peak towards Christmas and the New Year, meaning people are either looking to give them as gifts, or looking for a tool to help them with their New Year’s resolution of weight loss.
Air fryers have a number of qualities that make them appeal to a huge range of people, not just those trying to shift a few pounds. A few reasons may include:
- Affordable – as with most products, there are a whole range of air fryers that range massively in price. You can pay as little as around £40 (~$45+), or upwards of £150 (~$170+), depending on brand and functionality of the air fryer. However, overall, they are a relatively affordable option.
- Quicker than an oven – due to how quickly they heat up, air fryers get to work much sooner than ovens and as a result, food cooks quicker, resulting in less electricity being used and of course, less money spent on electricity use. This of course depends on how many you are cooking for. Due to an air fryer’s small size, it may not be possible to cook everything at once, which is where using an oven may prove cheaper overall. It depends on your individual situation, however I’ve read of many people who, following buying an air fryer, very rarely use their oven anymore!
- Reduced fat content of foods compared with other cooking methods – air fryers are extremely versatile in what you can cook in them, and while you do require a small amount of oil (1 or 2tsp) to achieve the crispy, fried texture, many recipes don’t require any oil at all. This means, when you compare, for example, air frying French fries versus deep fat frying, you end up with food that is much lower in fat.
- Compact – If you don’t have an oven, or have limited kitchen space, air fryers can be very compact depending on the type. You can buy air fryers with a capacity of around 1.5L, or with a capacity of 8L and upwards, which of course take up a bit more space.
- And more!
Do air fryers make foods healthier?
Now, the answer to this requires a bit of extra detail. While air fryers absolutely can reduce the fat content of your foods/meals and thus, make them healthier, especially if they’re reducing the amount of nutrients we should be trying to limit, such as saturated fat. For example, if you’re cooking foods like bacon in the air fryer, instead of frying in oil, the bacon will be cooked using hot air, with a lot of fat from the bacon falling through to the bottom of the air fryer, meaning that’s less fat that you’ll be consuming. A win-win overall!
However, we have to consider the answer to this when compared to other cooking methods too. So while air fryers can help make some foods healthier, in other cases, they may not make much of a difference, but might be better for you from a convenience point of view. For example, if you’re cooking frozen French fries (which have already been part-cooked in oil), then cooking these in the air fryer or your oven won’t result in much difference in terms of the nutritional content. Whereas cooking them in the air fryer versus deep fat frying, that’s going to produce a final product that’s much lower in fat.
One further possible benefit is, when compared with deep fat frying, air frying appears to reduce the production of acrylamide in some foods, especially higher-carbohydrate foods, such as potatoes (Wang, et al, 2021). Acrylamide is a chemical compound (compound meaning it’s made up from more than one element, in this case, acrylamide is made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen atoms) produced during the cooking process, mainly in foods high in carbohydrates, such as potatoes, as previously mentioned.
Acrylamide is causing a bit of a stir in the world of science and has been for a while. At present, acrylamide is classified as probably being carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The research up to now has found that animal studies have consistently found a link between acrylamide consumption and cancer risk, however, in the human population, several studies have found that acrylamide consumption does increase risk of cancer, while others have found no association (Filippini, et al, 2022). There is likely to be much more research in this area in the coming years in an attempt to come to a firm conclusion, but we’re not there yet.
Do air fryers help with weight loss?
Air fryers absolutely can help with weight loss. However, as is the case with many questions in the world of weight loss, when it comes to how much they can help, the answer is “it depends”. Many people might think that simply through using an air fryer to cook their food, they immediately become “healthy”. However, there are some things to consider, including:
- Cooking foods already high in energy/fat – Air frying foods can help reduce the fat content of foods and/or meals compared with other cooking such as deep-fat frying, because much less oil is required to achieve an evenly cooked food with a crispy, fried texture. However, if you’re air frying foods without oil, then compared to other methods, such as using the oven or a non-stick pan with no oil, the difference in energy/fat content will not be much different. The one benefit of air fryers in this instance is that they do allow fat to drip through into the bottom of the frying basket, meaning less fat is likely to be transferred to your plate when serving.
- You can still overeat healthier foods – A common thing I hear is “I eat a healthy, balanced diet, but still can’t lose weight! I just don’t understand what’s going on!” An important thing to remember is that, even if foods are more nutrient-dense (contain a lot of nutrition e.g. vitamins/minerals/fibre), they still contain energy (also referred to as calories). As such, you can still overeat on these particular foods. Just because they might be classed as “healthy”, it doesn’t mean the calories from these foods don’t count. They really do.
If you remember those points above, then you absolutely can use air fryers to your advantage when trying to lose weight. What I often say to people is, unless you have an intolerance to something, when it comes to weight loss, no food is off limits, we just have to be mindful of the amounts of certain foods that we’re having.
Ultimately, weight loss comes down to us consuming less energy (calories) than our body needs each day. Our body requires a certain number of calories each day just to survive, and to perform the basic bodily functions that keep us alive, such as our heart beating, lungs breathing and keeping our brain working. These are known as our maintenance calories (think of them as the calories we need to maintain ourselves and our weight), and if, for example, someone’s maintenance calories are 2500 per day. If they ate 2500 calories per day, their weight would stay the same.
If we reduce our calorie intake to less than our maintenance calories, then we create a calorie deficit, which is where your body isn’t quite getting the energy it needs each day to meet its maintenance calories. As such, it has to use up stored energy, such as fat or stored glucose (known as muscle or liver glycogen). As the body breaks down its stored energy sources to fuel itself, this results in weight loss.
So, to answer the question of “can air fryers help with weight loss?”, YES, they definitely can, but we have to be mindful of the points I discussed above. They can be used as a tool to help you with weight loss, but only if we use them in the right way, and remember that all foods (and many drinks) contain energy and we can still overeat on healthy, nutritious foods and drinks.
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Take it easy,
Wang, Wu, X., McClements, D. J., Chen, L., Miao, M., & Jin, Z. (2021). Effect of New Frying Technology on Starchy Food Quality. Foods, 10(8), 1852–. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10081852
Filippini, T., Halldorsson, T. I., Capitão, C., Martins, R., Giannakou, K., Hogervorst, J., Vinceti, M., Åkesson, A., Leander, K., Katsonouri, A., Santos, O., Virgolino, A., & Laguzzi, F. (2022). Dietary Acrylamide Exposure and Risk of Site-Specific Cancer: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Studies. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.875607