How air fryers can shave up to 260 calories off your favourite dinners

They are the must-have kitchen gadget, hailed as an essential for quick and healthy bites.

But rather than being just an over-hyped fad, leading experts insist trendy air fryers really are better for you than ovens.

Chicken thighs, chips and banana bread contain half the calories that they usually do when air fried, compared to when cooked using traditional methods. 

This is solely because air fryers, which can cost up to £400, require less fat, such as oil and butter, to cook food — giving them the crisp and crunch of a deep fat fryer without the unnecessary grease. Using an air fryer also leaves more nutrients in food compared to boiling or frying.

However, air fryers may not be a total savior for your waistline.

Some dietitians fear that Britons may use the devices to eat more fried food than they would otherwise. 

Although healthier, the food is still technically classed as fried — and can contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer that are still produced during the heating process


Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

Others say the lack of olive oil is a downside because small amounts of the Mediterranean staple can boost heart, brain and mental health.

Air fryers work by circulating heat at high temperatures — 200C (390F) — around food to fry, grill or bake it.

For comparison, warmer ovens and fryers usually get to 160 or 180C (320 or 360F) for the same effect.

Experts estimate most people can reduce the calories in a typical meal by 70 to 80 per cent when using an air fryer. 

But MailOnline analysis, which compared the average calories in recipes made with and without an air fryer, suggests you can save even more. 

The countertop contraption cooks chicken thighs for just 175 calories, compared to 440 in the oven.

That gap — which is just shy of being the same as a McDonald’s cheeseburger (300 calories) — is according to recipes published by the BBC and websites Cooking Light and Delish.

Meanwhile, a portion of chips can be made for 140 calories, compared to 340 using traditional cooking methods.

Cooking up banana bread in an air fryer saves 165 calories (135 vs 300), which is equivalent to a small bar of Dairy Milk.

Meanwhile, making churros in the device saves 90 calories (170 vs 260) — around two Jaffa Cakes’ worth.

And pork chops (390 vs 420) in an air fryer can save 30 calories — equivalent to a small bag of popcorn.

Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian from Aston Medical School in Birmingham, told MailOnline that this is down to air fryers requiring less fat to cook food.

Food can be cooked in an air fryer using just a few drops of oil or none at all. In contrast, food is submerged in oil during deep fat frying or coated in oil before roasting.

This means a portion of chips needs 10 to 12g less in an air fryer, which would save 100 calories per portion, he said.  

The device also doesn’t require water to cook food, which leaves more minerals and vitamins, such as potassium and vitamin C in the cooked food, Dr Mellor said. 

All foods lose some nutrients, such as vitamin A and D, during the cooking process. 

But the rate is increased in moist environments, such as if the food is cooked in water or oil. This is because nutrients can leach out of food into liquid, especially water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C. 

However, Dr Mellor noted that air fryers ‘are not perfect’ as some people may use them as a ‘way of eating more chips’ rather than to make healthier food.

And food made in an air fryer also still produces a chemical that appears in conventionally fried food, called acrylamide, which has been linked with cancer, Dr Mellor added.

The chemical forms as a result of a reaction between sugars when food is cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, roasting and baking. Animal studies found acrylamide caused cancer and is thought to pose a risk to humans as well, when consumed in high quantities, according to regulators.

Experts also warned that air fryers may encourage some people to eat fried food every day, rather than an occasional treat.

Dr Carmen Piernas, a researcher and nutrition scientist at the University of Oxford, told MailOnline that avoiding deep fried food would reduce the calories and fat in a person’s diet.

She said: ‘A good option would be a home-made breaded/battered fish or chicken. 

‘However, my guess is that a lot of the times people use highly processed frozen/ready to cook items (chips, fish/chicken) in the air fryer, which usually have fat added (plus many other things in the in the ingredients list). 

‘This would not have any benefit for health, as we are talking about a highly processed item with just a bit less fat, and these types of foods should be eaten only occasionally.

She added: ‘For people who rely too much on these types of foods, the calorie saving would be greater but their diet would not be good anyways.’

Experts also warn that relying too much on an air fryer means people could lose out on plant-based fats, such as those in olive oil. Studies suggest plant fats boost heart health, lower levels of bad cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory.

Meanwhile, because air fryers cook food more quickly than ovens, people are more likely to unwittingly burn their food — and be left eating a charred dinner.

Some studies have shown that eating burnt food increases the risk of cancers — especially kidney, endometrial and ovarian. 

Sales of the cooking appliance shot up 53 per cent year-on-year in October, according to data analytics company Kantar, prompted by the cost of living crisis.

While it costs 17p to cook two chicken breasts in an oven, an air fryer would cost around half that. 

This is because it costs less kilowatts for an air fryer to heat up and it cooks food quicker than an oven.

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