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Healthful Deep-Fried Foods?

An article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine explains that deep-fried foods, done properly, do not absorb much of the cooking oil.

If you drop onion rings, shrimp or green beans into hot oil, take them out and drain them, they absorb little or no oil. But most deep-fried foods are first coated in a batter (flour, egg, breadcrumbs) because that's what makes them crispy. This coating absorbs the oil -- less if it's fried "perfectly", but still more than non-fried foods.

The "perfect" deep-frying described in the Times isn't easy. Here's what's required:

*Deep, clean peanut oil (1-2 quarts of oil; strain it after each use and throw it out after a few uses)
*Perfect temperature (365 degrees), heated slowly and never allowed to smoke
*Cook only a few pieces at a time, the perfect length of time
*Remove with tongs or a wire basket (not a slotted spoon), and drain on racks (not paper towels)

Most people don't have the patience, budget or equipment to do this at home.

It's not just added calories that make deep-fried food less healthful; it's the high heat. The crunchy coatings of fried foods are primarily starch; so are potatoes (French fries). When starches and sugars are browned in hot oil, they form Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE's), that are carcinogens.

What about deep-fried foods in restaurants? Fried foods in fast food and many other restaurants (french fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, etc.) contain partially hydrogenated fats, in addition to the AGE's.

If you love fried foods, make them an occasional treat, not everyday fare. Order your deep-fried foods at better restaurants and ask whether they start with fresh potatoes or other foods, not frozen; and fry in liquid oil, not Crisco. (Frozen french fries and other frozen foods for frying are most likely to contain partially hydrogenated oils.)

The most healthful diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds, steamed or cooked in liquid, or eaten raw.

New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2001

Checked 5/1/09

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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