Deep-fried food is (rightfully) at the top of The List of Things Thou Shalt Not Eat to stay healthy. So anyone would wonder at a recent article that says that deep-fried food can be “good for you.”
The idea that “the less fat you eat, the better” is a “misguided notion,” Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times. While you certainly want to avoid eating too much fat (all fats have the same amount of calories), we do need to have some fats in our diet. It’s what kind of fat you eat that matters.
Some fats (specifically, unsaturated fats) are healthier for us than others (saturated fats, which include animal products — meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy and eggs and coconut and palm oils and other vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature).
“Good,” unsaturated fats fall into two categories, polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, grapeseed oil and omega-3 fatty acids and can help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. Monounsaturated fats include olive, canola and peanut oils; they can also be found in avocados, nuts (cashews, almonds) and seeds (sesame, pumpkin) and have been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease.
Here are some ways to make a cooking method synonymous with “bad for you” not quite as bad and also one that can help you get more “good,” unsaturated fats into your diet.
1. Use high quality oil
Deep-frying requires quantities of oil; commercially prepared deep-fried foods are cooked in cheap oils such as vegetable oil, soy, corn or Wesson. Using high quality oils — Bittman suggests unsaturated fats including olive oil, peanut oil or grapeseed oil — will cost more but you’ll get the payback of the health benefits noted above.
Olive oil is often deemed unfit for deep-frying as it smokes (i.e., it begins to break down) at 375 degrees and deep-frying is usually done at 350 degrees. But heating the oil somewhat higher (to 365 degrees) still works.
2. Try deep-frying at home
Cooking at home of course enables you to select and control your ingredients, from choosing “good” fats that are beneficial for your heart to fresh vegetables rather than overly processed foods. Plus, you don’t have to worry about what or how many mystery ingredients might be in a deep-fried item.
3. Forget the Oreos
In the past couples of years, summer festivals and country fairs seem to be striving to outdo each other in offering fried anything (such as Nutella). While you can deep-fry pretty much anything, steer clear of the notion that deep-frying is a way to make the almost inedible edible — deep-frying doesn’t have to be synonymous with foods that could induce a heart attack. Stick to vegetables, to make a plate of Japanese tempura or the courgettes in the above photo.
4. Moderation is key
Far be it from me even to suggest that eating fried food on a regular basis is advisable!
A little fried food can go a long way for most of us unless you are (like my son) a highly active teenage boy seemingly able to inhale plates of French fries. Deep-frying isn’t something most of us are able to do on a regular basis; getting the right equipment (a broad, deep and heavy pot) and good ingredients takes time and effort, as does cleaning up the stove.
A plate of crispy, fresh-out-of-the pot tempura might well be a good way to motivate someone who avoids vegetables to try a few.
With cooler weather having arrived, it is the time of year when cooking, and warming up the house with good smells, is especially appealing and all the more so with something a little out of the ordinary (and good for you).
Photos from Thinkstock
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