Want to live a long, healthy life? Then, it might be time to push away that plate of fried chicken and french fries.
A new study finds that women over 50 who regularly treat themselves to fried foods increase their risk of both heart disease and death from any cause.
Researchers at the University of Iowa's College of Public Health looked at health and dietary data associated with tens of thousands of women who enrolled in a health study for five years beginning in 1993.
The study authors then followed the well-being of these women through to 2017. According to the New York Times, researchers found that among these women:
- Eating one or more servings of fried chicken weekly created a 12 percent higher risk of death from any cause, and a 11 percent higher risk of heart-related death.
- Eating one or more servings of fried fish or shellfish once a week boosted the risk of death from any cause by 7 percent, and the risk of heart-related death by 12 percent.
The findings should come as no surprise to anyone who understands the destructive power of fried foods, says Angel Planells a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
“The issue with fried foods is that they increase our risk for development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, especially if we are consuming these foods on a daily basis,” he says.
Why we love fried foods
While evidence clearly shows that eating fried foods is bad for your health, millions of Americans are ignoring the warning signs.
More than one-third of Americans eat fast food on a daily basis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such foods are popular because they are deeply appealing to our taste buds, says Planells, founder of ACP Nutrition.
“Fried foods are tasty because they satisfy a person’s craving for fat and salty foods,” he says. “In addition, the crunchiness makes it more appealing, which then can lead to over-consumption.”
However, while fried foods taste good, they can have bad impacts on our health. Planells says research shows that eating fried chicken and fried fish or shellfish “increase our hazard risk the most.”
He says when you eat fried foods, the fat replaces the water content in the food, making it a higher-caloric meal.
In addition, during frying, heating oil may degrade through oxidation and hydrogenation, converting some of the oils into trans fats, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, Planells says.
Alternatives to fried foods
The best way to avoid these harmful effects is to reduce – or even eliminate – our intake of fried foods.
“Look at a fried food as a treat, and not as a daily habit,” Planells says. He suggests eating fried foods once every two to three weeks. For other meals, make more healthful selections.
“Choose a baked or grilled item,” he says. “Also look at the sides such as fruit salad, veggies or a side salad.”
Another great way to reduce the risk of fried foods is to prepare meals with an air fryer, Planells says.
“Air fryers do a great job of preparing a fried item with less oil, reducing the calories…and fat content by using air,” he says.
Another bonus of using an air fryer is that “you don’t have to deal with cleaning up the oil, or the smell of fried foods,” Planells says.
The American Heart Association also suggests ways to make your diet more heart-healthy. They include eating a diet rich in:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Skinless poultry and fish
- Nuts and legumes
- Nontropical vegetable oils