Why We Can’t Get Too Excited About the Health Benefits of Deep-Frying Vegetables

By Aly Walansky |

Cultura RM/Rosanna U

Still trying to convince yourself that those jalapeño poppers are actually a delicious bundle of vegetables and protein? We’re right there with you. For those always looking for ways to rationalize questionable food choices, new research touting the health benefits of deep-frying your vegetables will be welcome news. And it’s true. Kind of.

study published in the journal Food Chemistry has published findings that seem too good to be true: Deep-frying our vegetables has health benefits. As part of the study, researchers fried a variety of vegetables, and then also prepared them sautéed or boiled. The study discovered that while frying did increase the fat content of the vegetables, it also increased the antioxidants in relation to the other preparation methods.

Sounds great, but does it sound too great? How can frying vegetables add any nutritional benefit?

“The increase in antioxidants is due to the transfer of antioxidants from the extra-virgin olive oil the researchers used to fry the vegetables,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Jessica Fishman Levinson, founder of Nutritioulicious.

But don’t get too excited, you are not getting a free pass to enjoy everything fried. “These vegetables also fried at a temperature below the smoke point, and we know that above the smoke point, oils start to break down and release free radicals, which we know are harmful to our health. Most restaurants fry foods in oils that are lower in antioxidants, some even with trans fats, so the results of this study are not very transferable to the fried food we typically eat,” Levinson says.

Additionally, most fried foods are battered before being fried, so not only do you have the extra calories and fat from the oil, but also from the breading. “There are plenty of antioxidant-rich foods we can enjoy without the added calories and fat and health risks from frying, such as berries, artichokes, beans, tomatoes, and leafy greens, just to name a few,” Levinson says.

Thus, we can feel better about eating fried vegetables sometimes, but it’s still not the best idea to start eating them in place of your daily lunch salad. 

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