Italians know a thing or two about deep frying. After all, this is the land of arancini, fritto misto, carciofi alla giudía… need we say more? These crunchy fried foods are known for their deliciousness, but are they actually healthy too? The answer might surprise you.
According to Debora Rasio, a nutritionist, author, and university researcher, fried food can be healthy. Debora debunks the myths in her piece for Gambero Rosso “Il fritto fa bene alla salute”. The key takeaway? Use extra virgin olive oil!
How is Fried Food Good for You?
First things first, when fried food tastes heavy, oily, or greasy it hasn’t been cooked properly. Fritto should be light and crunchy! When the food hits the oil it should immediately begin to form a crust. This crust prevents too much oil from being absorbed. It also locks in all the nutrients in your food, preventing damage from hot oil.
The oil you use is super important too. Debora and the Italian Ministry of Health agree: extra virgin olive oil is the best choice when it’s time to fry.
“Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the best oil for frying, is obtained by the mechanical pressing of a fruit, the olive, without adding heat or chemical substances. It’s therefore rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols, capable of counteracting the formation of dangerous substances when cooking at high temperatures.”
Those antioxidants actually transfer to the food you’re frying. If you use “light” olive oil or other kinds of frying oils, you won’t get any of those benefits at all.
Debora says cooked oil is also an important stimulus for the liver. Just like you need exercise for a strong cardiac and muscular system, your liver needs to work to stay healthy too.
Best Practices for Healthy Deep Frying
- Use extra virgin olive oil
- Make sure the oil is hot and the batter is cold
- Don’t over batter your food.
- Be sure to immerse the food completely in oil (don’t overcrowd the pan), and let it drain once it’s done.
Thank you Debora for helping us spread the word: extra virgin olive oil is the best choice for frying food! Read her full piece here (link in Italian): Il fritto fa bene alla salute. Il via libera dei nutrizionisti che fa sorridere i golosi.