The Unhealthy Facts About Fried Foods

The Unhealthy Facts About Fried Foods

Why deep fried anything has no business in your healthy, 1R-Approved, diet.

On the not-really-hit-show but personal fave, Food Revolution, my future hubby Jamie Oliver recently looked on as a family ceremoniously buried their deep fryer for a healthier lifestyle. Everyone considers fried foods unhealthy – but what’s so wrong with indulging in some good ol’ Mcdonald's french fries, or a plate of frickles (fried pickles) from the ever-classy Brother Jimmy’s?

First, we have the calories. When something is deep fried in oil, it doubles or triples the caloric density. If you submerge any food in oil – whether it’s a potato or breaded chicken or an oreo, it’s going to increase the calories – because fat is soaked up into every available space. A large baked potato (7oz) has 220 calories and 0.2 g fat. When that baby is cut up and turned into French fries it contains 697 calories and 34 grams of fat. Sick! And we both know that’s before the cheese… and the it's not Thanksgiving but why not gravy… etc.

But it’s not just the calories. The bigger problem is actually what it’s fried in. In restaurants, typically hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are used – which is code for trans fat. Trans fat is a man-made fat that improves the shelf life of processed foods, but at the same time, raises your cholesterol and increases your risk of heart disease and stoke. If you forget everything else, remember this: Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

All fats and oils have what’s called a “smoke point” – a temperature at which the chemical structure deteriorates and forms toxic compounds. This is when oils turn rancid; and eating foods fried in rancid oil causes increased oxidative stress on your body, leading to things like glucose intolerance, protein malfunction, hypertension and high cholesterol (In English: bad news). Unfortunately, healthier oils like olive, canola and vegetable oil have lower smoke points – which means they form toxic compounds more quickly than the typical unhealthy fats like lard and butter. So, heartbreakingly, you can’t get away with frying in olive oil to make healthier mozzarella sticks.

When you eat fried chicken from, say, your local Chinese food spot (or even a more upscale bar/grill) the oil is typically used over and over and over. Which means, yep, further oxidation and breakdown of oils, and further damage to your body. And in addition to a change in the chemical structure of oils, frying also changes the structure of other nutrients in whatever it is you’re cooking. When carbohydrates are heated to really high temperatures in cooking and frying, they produce acrylamide, a carcinogen associated with cancer. Foods also lose a lot of vitamins and minerals when fried. Have you noticed that everything fried turns the same icky color brown? There is just nothing nutritious or healthy about this color, babes:

The bottom line is this: Even healthy fats are no friend of the fryer. Eating deep fried foods will counteract all that positive work you’ve done on your hot bod while reading OneResult workout programs religiously to make it stronger/leaner/faster. Quite simply, deep fried foods have no business in any healthy diet. So, quite literally, you need to drop the donut to drop those last five and locate that 6-pack core waiting underneath; summer's approaching kids!

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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.