Q Are all fried foods a nutritional disaster, or could foods fried in healthy oils a good option?
A Frying, whether in heart-healthy olive oil or artery-clogging lard, boosts a food’s calorie count substantially. Deep frying fish, for example, adds about 100 calories per 85g serving compared to grilling, while frying chips instead of baking them adds a hefty 200 calories because the extra surface area on the potato strips allows extra oil to soak in. If a food is particularly absorbent, such as aubergine, even more oil (at 120 calories per tablespoon) is sucked into the food. So don’t even think about frying a Swiss roll.
In addition to tacking on all those unwanted calories, some oils can smoke and emit acrid odours under high frying temperatures, which is a sign that the healthy fats have oxidised. Research shows that carcinogens may form from this oxidation. Oils that are not refined or filtered, such as olive oil, are more likely to do this because they contain impurities.
You can enjoy the health benefits of oils without taking in extra fat calories or harmful carcinogens by sautéing rather than frying. Use a tablespoon or two of olive, peanut, or other vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet and stir-fry vegetables, strips of meat, or tofu over a medium-high heat. Chip lovers can cut potatoes (leaving the skin on) into strips and place them in a plastic bag. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and toss in the bag to evenly distribute the oil. Take them out of the bag and bake at 2000C for 20-30 minutes.
—Liz Applegate, sports nutritionist and author of Eat Smart Play Hard