How Bad Is Fried Food For You, Really? Probably not as bad as you are told…a lot of time, many of us don’t look at the other side of the facts. It is important to know which fried food is bad for health. It’s no secret that fried food isn’t good for you. But a new study published in The BMJ details exactly how eating these foods may affect your health over time — and spells out which kinds may be the worst for you.
I am a huge fan of fried food and I am sure there are lot of people out there love fried food but don’t eat as much as they like due to the fear of harm fried food do to our lives. Of course, if I have a choice, I rather bake some of my food to get that crispness but that can’t be done with all types of food. These days, I also try to mimic few fried recipes by using an air fryer.
Though I love fired food, can’t fry the food often as every time, I fry, I get headache! I always prefer to fry food in an open area. I have set up the stove outside in my porch just to fry food…I still get headaches so wondering what would happen if I fry the food in my indoor kitchen! I was told this may be because high levels of certain fats in the blood lead to the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins can cause your blood vessels to dilate, potentially leading to migraines and increased pain.
“Oil changes when heated up for a long time, and oxidation products form–several of which have been designated ‘probable human carcinogens’ and are known to cause mutations in offspring,” interjects Fear. “For this reason, breathing the air near a deep fryer has been shown to be an occupational hazard, increasing risk of respiratory problems.”
“Oils used for deep frying are generally high in omega-6 fats, saturated fats, or trans-fatty acids,” adds Fear. “These are not recommended to emphasize in a healthy diet.”
It turns out, the additional amount of fat added into the food isn’t the only issue. There is other stuff that forms during deep frying that you probably don’t know about.
FACT: As the oil is used and reused, it only gets more harmful.
But the good news is you don’t have to completely give up fried foods. There is an option if you’ve got to have it.
I definitely would eat homemade Indian fried flat bread (puris) over the store bought crackers. Why? Store bought crackers have lot of junky ingredients.
Are you one of those people who always prefer a paratha to a poori because you avoid deep-fried foods? The sort of person who steers clear of samosas, kachoris, pakoras and all the other Indian snacks that come out of a wok full of hot oil? We do… And there is a reason for this. For years and years, doctors have told us to stay away from deep-fried foods because they are full of oil. And oil is fat, which as we know is not only packed with calories but is also bad for the heart because it contains substances that clog the arteries.
I am just not convinced that Indian fried foods are as unhealthy as the ones they consume in the West. I came to this conclusion after listening to Manjit Gill, best known as ITC’s most senior chef, but better known to me as the most thoughtful and perceptive chef on matters relating to Indian food.
Manjit says he started questioning the avoid-pooris-completely orthodoxy relatively recently. He began by asking himself a simple question: why don’t we have deep fat fryers in Indian kitchens?
It is a valid question. Most Western kitchens have deep fat fryers of some sort. You put the ingredients to be fried into a metal basket and then lower them into a vat of hot oil. In no time at all, you get french fries, fried chicken, fried fish, chicken nuggets or whatever. Much of the Western fast food industry, for instance, would close down if they abolished the deep fat fryer.
But, Manjit wondered, why don’t we use deep fat fryers for frying Indian food? After all, we make samosas, pakoras and many other fried items in Indian cuisine.
The answer he came up with surprised him; and it certainly surprised me. If we were to cook our deep-fried foods in professional fryers, they would taste disgusting. You simply cannot make pooris or good pakoras in a deep fat fryer.
There is a reason for this. The central principle of Western deep frying is that you immerse food in hot oil. The science of frying is well researched. (If you are an arts student, you can skip the next few paras).
In the deep end: A perfect French fry will be crisp on the outside and tender on the inside
I’ll paraphrase the scientific explanation offered by the American writer, Ross Parsons says
Hindustan Times. He says that when you drop food into hot fat, there is a giant whooshing of hot oil bubbles. It is not boiling (oil burns before it boils) but is the effect of the moisture leaving the food as it comes into contact with the hot oil. The sudden evaporation of the moisture forms the crisp crust on the outside of the food. (In that sense, frying is a form of drying). As the food gets crispy, the oil rushes into the holes from which the water has evaporated. And the moisture still trapped deep inside the food turns to steam.
So deep frying is a two step process. The immersion in hot oil creates the crispy crust outside while the inside is actually steamed by the evaporation of moisture. So a perfect French fry will be crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
To do this successfully, you need a constant oil temperature of 350 to 375°C. And the job of the professional deep fat fryer is to make sure that the temperature remains constant.
The same scientific principles apply to all food. This is how all deep frying happens. So why is Indian food different? Why can’t we use fryers?
Well, because Indian food is actually less fried.
When you immerse a French fry or a chicken nugget in hot oil, the food absorbs the oil to let the dual process of drying and steaming begin. But in the case of Indian food, you never completely immerse the food in oil.
A poori, for instance, is cooked on the surface. You put it into a dekchi or wok full of hot oil and you do not need to let it go all the way in. It simply floats on the surface. And as soon as the drying process begins on one side, you quickly turn it over and fry the other side. (The steaming process explains why a poori puffs up in the dekchi as the moisture turns into steam and evaporates). Consequently, it absorbs much less oil than any Western food that goes into a deep fat fryer.
A samosa absorbs less oil than we think because it is surface fried
Exactly the same thing is true of a pakora or a kachori or a samosa. Because it is surface frying, the absorption of oil is much less than we think.
But not all Indian food necessarily has less oil. Manjit gave me the example of the paratha. Many cooks (especially some of the famous street side parathawallas) take a shallow pan and fill it with fat. When the paratha goes into the tawa, it stays there long enough to suck up the fat it is immersed in. So while the parathas that come out of these pans may taste delicious, it is possible that they actually have absorbed more fat (upto 700 per cent more) than a poori. And yet we have been brought up to believe that a paratha is always healthier than a poori! (A paratha made at home in a tawa with very little oil is of course quite healthy. It’s the parathas you get outside you should worry about).
Manjit suggests a simple test. Take a roadside paratha and a home-made poori and squeeze them both. See which one oozes out the most oil. It will always be the paratha and not the poori.
Manjit says that, at an intuitive level, Indians usually shun oily, fried food. A good pakora is one that is light and firm. If somebody serves us a soggy pakora (or a bhajjiya) that oozes oil, we regard it as a failure. If we are served a poori that has been over-browned in the dekchi because it has been fried for too long, we send it back. So, the truth is that, Indians don’t like too much oil in their fried food. We only like food that has been quickly fried on the surface of a wok.
When Manjit first presented this thesis to his boss at ITC, Nakul Anand, he was greeted with scepticism. Nakul was as disbelieving as I was. But because he is of a numbers-oriented nature, Nakul had the fat-content tested. In nearly every case, he found, Indian deep-fried foods had much less oil than Western fried foods. And in many cases, the Indian deep-fried dishes contained less fat than the dishes we regard as shallow-fried and therefore, healthy.
You’re the culprit Parathas can absorb more fat (upto 700 per cent more) than pooris
What this means is that there are no hard and fast rules. If you eat your channa with a kulcha rather than a bhatura because you think the kulcha is healthier, think again. It may be a shallow-fried dish but the chances are that the bhatura is actually healthier. You may be better off eating poori-aloo for breakfast than an aloo paratha, because the poori may have less oil.
One of the problems we face as Indians is that nutritional and diet orthodoxies follow the Western models. Thus we are told that red meat is bad and full of saturated fat on the basis of American research which uses ‘red meat’ as a synonym for ‘beef’. Actually, goat (which is what we eat in India) has much less saturated fat than beef and can often be healthier than the chickens we get in our shops.
So it is with deep frying.
Yes, any food that is immersed in hot oil will end up soaking up some of the fat. So Western nutritionists are right to warn against deep frying. But their method of deep frying is not the same as ours. And so their orthodoxies cannot always be transferred to the Indian context or to our cuisine.
Manjit also makes the point about refined flour. In India, he notes, we rarely use maida in our home-cooking. These days, Western nutritionists keep telling us how bad refined flour and white bread are. But most Indians use virtually no refined floor on a day-to-day basis. We use whole wheat (atta) or we use besan (which is made from
channa), both of which are much healthier than maida. Pakoras and pooris are better than white bread, at least in term of flour. (The exception is the Bengali luchi which is made with maida).
So, the next time somebody offers you a deep-fried Indian food, don’t get all self-righteous and go on about health issues. Embrace our own food culture.
You’ll find that good home-style Indian food is about a million times healthier than Western fast food.
Manjit Gill’s recipe for a light and delicious poori
Poori is an ancient bread from Vedic time and falls in the category of pucca khanna. It is customary to fry it in a wok. The whole wheat flour is coarsely ground. The dough is similar to that of chapatis. A little less water is used, so the dough is firm. It is shortened with a little ghee or oil and salt to bring out the flavour.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon rock salt
1 1/2 tablespoon ghee or oil
1/3 cup warm water (40°C)
Ghee or oil for frying
1. Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix gently. Make a small bay, add melted ghee, warm water and mix. Rub between the fingers until oil and water are thoroughly incorporated. Add a little water slowly and knead until the dough is formed and kneadable. The dough should be pliable but moderately stiff. You may use little less than 1/2 cup of water to achieve the consistency. Apply oil or ghee on the hands and knead the dough for about 4-6 minutes until firm and smooth. Form into a ball, lightly apply ghee or oil, keep it covered and let the dough rest for 1.5-3 hours.
2. Keep ready all the tools required for pooris – small rolling pin, slotted spoon for frying, a tray lined with paper towel and a wok with enough ghee or oil to fry (approx 3-5 inches deep).
3. Place the dough on a clean surface and knead for a few seconds. Divide the dough in 16 equal portions and cover with a damp cloth. Now take each portion of the dough, roll into a ball and flatten into half inch disc, pour melted ghee or oil and roll it out, exerting equal pressure into 4.5- 5 inch diameter. Roll out all the pooris, place it on a sheet and cover with damp cloth. Don’t use dry flour/dust to roll the pooris at all.
4. Now heat the ghee or oil over moderate heat until it reaches 185°C, lift up rolled up poori and carefully slip into the hot ghee or oil and make sure it remains flat and does not fold over. The poori will sink to the bottom of the pan and quickly rise to the surface. As it begins to puff, very gently press it with the back of the slotted spoon until it puffs out completely. Take care not to press the poori hard, it will form a tear in the crust that could allow the ghee or oil inside. When lightly browned on the bottom, carefully turn over and brown the second side. It should not take more than 40-50 seconds of frying.
Remove the poori with the slotted spoon.
Repeat the procedure for all the pooris, adjusting the heat to achieve even temperature.
Frying in olive oil at home would not likely be associated with so many negative health impacts, as it increases the monounsaturated fats in the food, “If the oil is fresh and discarded after using (as opposed to using over and over as restaurants do) the food also would have lower levels of some toxic compounds such as acrolein that arise from oxidation of fat at high heat.
You don’t have to abandon fried foods completely, but it is important to consider where you are getting the food from and what oils it is being cooked in. Keeping your fat intake down and reducing the amount of saturated fats low is part of a healthy diet. Next time you want chicken nuggets, try making them yourself at home, either by baking them in the oven (this recipe is delicious!) or frying them in some extra virgin olive oil.
The higher risk of death was noted among those who ate French fries more than twice a week. Eating them once a week or less would likely have a negligible effect on your health. Portion size matters.
Eating fried chicken weekly could lead to early death, study finds. How would you like your death: regular, or extra early? A new study links regular fried chicken consumption – one serving a week or more – to a 13 percent increased risk of premature death, at least among older women.
Fried chicken and fried fish were more strongly linked to early death than other fried foods, which the researchers grouped in a miscellaneous category including French fries, crackers, tortilla chips and snacks. The strength of the association may be because people simply consume more fried chicken or fish, Bao says, or because of differences in how those foods are prepared. For example, many restaurants reuse oil when they cook foods like fried chicken, which Bao says may increase the number of harmful byproducts transferred to the food. Meats also tend to be more deeply fried than many snack foods.
The bottom line is that food fried at home is not as bad as bought from fast food restaurants.