If you have high cholesterol levels, are suffering from a heart or liver disease, or if you’re worried about another gallbladder attack, your doctor has probably told you to steer clear of fatty foods. Yes, our bodies need fats but not the kind you get from deep-fried foods at a state fair. But can you say no to that crunchy, tasty, fried chicken? How about those hot tater tots that are crispy on the outside but soft on the inside? Do you get excited just thinking about all those doughnuts, fries, and calamari? I can’t blame you. Avoiding fried foods can be a challenge. Despite the proven consequences of excessive fat intake, frying is still a widely used industrial and domestic cooking method. Moreover, fried foods are really tasty.
How can something so wrong feel so right? Science can explain it.
Who do fried foods taste so good?
In a video produced by SciShow explaining the chemistry of fried food, they have enumerated a few reasons why we probably love it. Eating is a sensory experience, and fried foods offer something that can excite all those five senses.
The moment food is submerged in deep, heated oil, many chemical reactions happen. The crispy crust begins to form as the food surface is dehydrated. The crunchy, textured outer layer is made even better by a batter. At the same time, oil molecules enter the food, enhancing its taste. Factor in the visual and auditory pleasure of enjoying the fried food, and the experience is complete.
But I need to take care of myself. Is there healthy oil for frying?
Gallstones and other gallbladder conditions are caused both by excessive levels of cholesterol and the absence of healthy fats in our body. However, and I hate to burst your bubble, hydrogenated fats, partially-hydrogenated fats, trans fats, and genetically-modified oils are bad for you. Unfortunately, these are the kind of fats often found in processed and deep-fried food.
As we have enumerated in our past blog about the different kinds of fats, below are some gallbladder-friendly oils that we can use for our meals:
- Flax oil – use cold only and keep refrigerated
- Olive oil – 375-410 degrees
- Coconut Oil – 350 degrees
- Avocado oil – 520 degrees
However, it is essential to note that not all of these can be used for cooking. Flax oil should be used cold only as it goes rancid quickly when not refrigerated, and even kept cold is only good for six months. The smoke point is the temperature at which these oils produce toxic smoke. Avocado oil and olive oil have higher smoke points, with avocado going to 520 degrees Fahrenheit before smoking. And note that several oils are now available in spray cans which allows for lightly coating the food and using much less.
So if you really must fry, you can use avocado for higher heat, then olive or coconut. However, it doesn’t work that way if you think that unhealthy fried food will suddenly become good for you just because you have used a healthy oil for frying. Doughnuts and fried soda will still be bad for your health.
So if you really can’t give up your fried food, what’s the best option for healthy frying?
Air Fryer: A Low Fat Fryer or Even No Oil Fryer
If we said this a decade ago, it would have sounded absurd. But with the increasing consumer demand for low-fat and fat-free products, the food industry has finally found a way to produce fried foods with lower oil content but with the same texture and flavor. Because of the invention of the air fryer, healthy frying is now conceivable.
Hot air frying is a new technique that allows direct contact between an external oil source in hot air and the food product in a frying chamber. As explained by a study from the Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences, food in a low fat fryer is constantly in motion to promote homogenous contact between the hot air and oil. It uses hot air circulation to cook food from all angles with no oil needed. This mechanism allows “crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside” possible. Even zucchini tastes yummy; a little brown and slightly crispy outside, soft and yes, incredibly juicy inside!
Air Frying Advantages and Disadvantages
Using an air fryer definitely has its pros and cons. Here are some of the benefits of air frying:
Firstly, foods fried using a low-fat fryer have lower oil content, which is healthier and has earned the fryer the name, Health Fryer. Unlike deep fryers that you would have to fill up with oil, air fryers require a little to none almost to the brim. I cook zucchini with nothing – no oil, no salt, just air. And it’s scrumptious! And as you can imagine, this also makes clean-ups much easier.
Secondly, a low-fat fryer yields food with the same color, moisture, and texture as those cooked via deep frying. So you still get to enjoy the same eating experience, only with healthy nutrients – not to mention less guilt.
Thirdly, air fryers are easy and convenient to use. They cook food faster than regular frying, they can cook multiple dishes at once, and you don’t have to worry about that heavy, oily aroma in your kitchen after cooking. There are temperature and timer controls you can use very easily; food separators are available to allow the preparation of multiple meals, and there are built-in air filters that can help eliminate unwanted food odors.
Last but not least, air fryers are known for frying, but they can actually handle much more than that. They can also be used for grilling, baking, and roasting.
There are also some disadvantages to using a low fat fryer, though they are not too many:
First off, air fryers are not cheap. If you want to do healthy frying daily, you need to invest in it. If you have already spent a lot on countertop appliances such as a toaster oven or microwave, the hot air fryer is yet another kitchen appliance to splurge on. However, they are coming down in price, ranging from $45 to $100.
Secondly, you also have to have a spacious kitchen to accommodate a hot air fryer. Depending on the type and the brand, air fryers can be big and bulky. We use ours several times a day, so it gets a prominent spot on our counter. It replaces the toaster oven and microwave, so there’s that.
Given the pros and cons, you will realize that there are far more advantages to owning your very own air fryer. I own the GoWise AirFryer, which has worked well for me, and it gets used several times a day in my kitchen. There are other good brands available, so check them all out here, starting with the GoWISE USA 3.7-Quart 8-in-1 Air Fryer with 8 Cooking Settings.
What can I cook with an air fryer?
You wouldn’t want to spend so much on something that can do so little. We have gathered a few recipes that you can do using your new appliance to maximize it. The good news is that we have even tweaked these recipes to suit your gallbladder diet needs.
Chips! Chips! Chips!
All kinds of Chips! This machine is a healthy chip fryer and takes the labor and time out of oven-baking vegetable chips. You can make everything from potato chips to kale chips and lots of things in between. Here are several recipes to try out.
Healthy French Fries
Three medium russet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder/ granulated garlic
1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
Pepper to taste
2 tsp avocado oil/coconut oil
1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F
2. Wash potatoes and pat dry. Slice each one into 1/4 inch thick fries.
3. Toss with oil, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper
4. Cook at 370°F for 15 to 25 minutes. Make sure that the basket is not too crowded.
Sweet Potato Fries or Yam Fries
Two medium peeled sweet potatoes or yams
2 tsp avocado oil
1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
dash of black pepper
1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F
2. Slice each sweet potato into 1/4 inch thick fries.
3. Toss with oil, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika.
4. Cook at 375°F for 15 minutes, turning halfway.
5. Cook in 2 to 3 batches, so the pan does not get overcrowded.
Crispy Beet Chips
1.5 lb red beets (about three pcs) peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices. Makes 3 cups.
2 tsp avocado oil
3/4 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Peel the medium-sized beets and cut them into thin slices, around 1/8 of an inch. You should be able to make at least 3 cups. This job is done quickly in a food processor.
2. Toss the sliced beets with salt, pepper, and oil in a large container. Coat the beets evenly.
3. Place flavored beets in the air fryer. Make sure not to put too much. There should be enough wiggle room for shaking. Cook in batches if necessary.
4. Cook at 320°F for about 20 to 30 mins. Check the basket every 5 minutes to see if the beets are dry and crisp. OR stop just before that while they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inner.
5. Serve as a snack or side dish.
Kale Chips Recipe
One bunch kale
1 tbsp avocado oil
Dash of Himalayan Pink Salt
Premier Nutritional Flakes
1. Wash and break kale into small pieces.
2. Sprinkle with avocado oil, Himalayan pink salt, and nutritional yeast flakes. Toss to coat thoroughly.
3. Cook in the air fryer at 370°F for 5-7 minutes.
4. Watch closely, so they do not burn. Note that if these are not coated in oil, they will fly up in the air in the fryer.
Three medium zucchini
Himalayan Pink Salt (optional)
1. Slice in half and layer in the fryer. Salt if desired. No oil is necessary.
2. Cook at 370°F for 15 minutes. Add 3-4 minutes more if they have not browned.
Paleo Bison Burger
Ground bison, 1 lb
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried onion
Lettuce leaves or Organic Coconut Wraps
1. Mix all the spices to your ground bison. 1 lb makes around four patties.
2. Grill using your air fryer on medium heat until the desired temperature
3. Slice avocado into thin slices and apply a coat of lemon juice to avoid discoloration.
4. Place fresh tomato slices on each burger
5. Add three slices of avocado
6. Serve with butter lettuce leaves or a coconut wrap (gently warmed for pliability and deliciousness).
Crispy Sesame Tofu
Two packs extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch thick cubes
2 cups boiled brown rice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped scallions
Olive oil or Coconut oil cooking spray
Honey, 1 1/2 tbsp
Sesame oil, 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp
Toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp
Rice vinegar, 1 tsp
Arrowroot powder, 1/2 tsp
Himalayan Pink Salt, 1/2 tsp
1. Preheat air fryer to 200°F
2. Coat tofu with cooking spray.
3. Place tofu on a plate lined with paper towels. Once done, cover with additional paper towels and a plate. Place weight on top. Let stand for 30 minutes.
4. Place tofu in the air fryer at 375°F until crispy and golden brown. Make sure that the tofu is well-spaced and on a single layer. Cook in batches if needed. Turn over tofu cubes halfway through cooking.
5. (For the sauce) Whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and arrowroot in a saucepan. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. Stir in salt with cooked brown rice.
7. Toss cooked tofu into the sauce mixture.
8. Divide rice into four bowls and top with the tofu.
9. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds before serving.
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Scishow (2016) The Chemistry of Fried Food. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTfgfoVb6io&feature=youtu.be
Shaker, M. A. (2014). Air frying a new technique for produce of healthy fried potato strips. J Food Nutr Sci, 2(4), 200-206.
Teruel, M. D. R., Gordon, M., Linares, M. B., Garrido, M. D., Ahromrit, A., & Niranjan, K. (2015). A comparative study of the characteristics of french fries produced by deep fat frying and air frying. Journal of food science, 80(2), E349-E358.