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Air fryer experts weigh in on the cult kitchen gadget and whether it’s really healthier for you

Air fryers have been touted as a healthy alternative to cooking ‘deep fried’ foods such as crispy potato chips or crumbed chicken, without the fat.

But Australian health experts have weighed in on the cult kitchen gadget, with some suggesting it’s not as healthy as you might think.

Just like a fan-forced oven, air fryers are a small ‘bulky’ benchtop appliance that circulates hot, dry air to produce crispy, golden food with little to no oil.

More than 300,000 fans are part of a Facebook group dedicated to air fryers, with many cooking everything from pork belly with crackling and lean proteins with vegetables to banana bread and pavlova.

Lee Holmes, a Sydney cookbook author, said there are ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ to using an air fryer.

‘The positives are cooking from home and knowing what ingredients you are using to make your meals rather than relying on ready-made processed meals that may contain high levels of sodium, trans fats and additives,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

‘This method means that you will be using less unhealthy oils such as vegetables oils which are inflammatory, as you won’t be deep frying ingredients.

‘Another positive is the texture of food as air fryers can result in a crispier chicken than other methods such as roasting. They are also safer than using a deep fat fryer.

‘But on the downside, relying on air fryers doesn’t guarantee that your diet will be any healthier.’

The founder of Supercharged Food said the ‘best kind of diet’ is the one that is ‘diverse’ and focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, good fats and wholegrains.

Sydney dietitian Lyndi Cohen – who owns an air fryer – pointed out that swapping deep-fried ‘comfort’ foods for air-fried foods doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ‘healthy’.

‘If you’re still cooking your favourite comfort foods like pork bellies or brownies in an air fryer, they’re not going to be significantly healthier,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

‘I do think that air fryers encourage people to cook more but cooking unhealthy foods in the air fryer are still going to be unhealthy.

‘Ideally you should use air fryers to make healthy foods as opposed to unhealthy comfort foods. Comfort foods [cooked in an air fryer] should be saved for an occasion and not every day.’

The author of The Nude Nutritionist said the device is a great way to creating your favourite dishes with less oil yet delicious results.

‘I love my air fryer… it’s a much healthier way to cook food. You can still get the crispy texture in less time with far less fat. It’s an easy and quick way to make delicious, tasteful vegetables than using an oven,’ she said.

‘You have to wait for the oven to heat up but you can get soft, delicious and crispy sweet potatoes or baked pumpkin in just 15 minutes in an air fryer.

‘Nutritionally, it’s a great way to cook especially if you normally use a deep fryer.’

When she cooks with her air fryer, Ms Cohen said she uses just a ‘spray’ of extra virgin olive oil on her ingredients.

‘I mostly cook vegetables – homemade potato and carrot chips, falafel, homemade sweet potato wedges, crispy chickpeas,’ she said.

‘I also make a healthier chicken schnitzel as I simply crumb a chicken thigh and it’s a far healthier and very tasty alternative.’

Last month, Sydney nutritionist Susie Burrell said there are health benefits to cooking crispy food you would normally deep fry.

‘Without doubt, air frying is a way to significantly reduce the fat content of some of your favourite foods that we would traditionally deep fry,’ Ms Burrell told Sunrise.

‘Things like your fried chips, even chicken… it crisps up beautifully when using an air fryer and you are getting up to 80 per cent less fat than traditionally deep fried foods.’

But she warned: ‘The other thing to remember nutritionally is just because it is air fried doesn’t make the base line food healthier.

‘So if you’re choosing chicken wings or chips, they’re still not the healthiest foods out there so still enjoy them in moderation.’

However, CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair said home cooks will get the same results, if not better, by just using a traditional oven.

‘Air fryers are not my favourite appliance,’ she said in a CHOICE review. 

‘You might want one if you don’t have an oven or if you have teenagers that want to easily cook themselves hot snacks. But they’re very basic appliances and they can be very expensive while also taking up a lot of space.

‘If you want to cook ‘healthier’ homemade or frozen chips, you can just toss in oil and bake in your oven – you don’t need a special appliance.’

The cost of air fryers range from $49 to $599.

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