Can fried food ever be healthy

A recent paper published on tells us that food cooked in olive or sunflower oil is not related to poor heart health or premature deaths.

The study, conducted by Autonomous University of Madrid surveyed 40,757 people over an 11 year period, and stated that 'no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death' (via). But does this give us license to reach for those samosas and eat to our heart's content? Maybe not. Let's dig a little deeper and investigate why this study's findings are not particularly relevant to an Indian audience, and why limiting fried food's effects to heart disease alone can be harmful to our overall health.

Fried food increases any food's caloric content. This should come as no surprise. When we fry anything, we allow the oil's fat to seep into it - increasing its calorie count by leaps and bounds. As we eat this, it affects our body in two ways - firstly, our daily calorie intake increases. And secondly, our diet leans heavily towards fat consumption. Therefore, if we make a habit out of fried food, we cross the recommended 20-30% daily fat intake limit quite frequently. Both effects result in weight gain, which can become a more serious medical problem like obesity.

Fried food never affects our bodies directly. Just like a sedentary lifestyle by itself will never be the medical cause of death, fried food intake by itself will never be a medical emergency. It affects our overall health indirectly; through weight gain and unbalanced nutrient intake.

The fried food study took place in Spain, a region known for its healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle. The oil they use for frying, as the study found, is far from the palm oil and hydrogenated vegetable oils more commonly used in India. More specifically, the study mentioned that the oil used for frying in these regions was olive or sunflower oil. Now, while these are excellent combinations of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, remember that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. A person can gain unhealthy weight even by over-eating on fruits, let alone food fried in good oil.

Portion control is key once again. To understand how the Mediterranean diet differs from our Indian diets, you need only look at how the food is served. Each plateful is balanced with good fats, lean protein and plenty of raw vegetables. The cereal is usually whole and coarse, and the salt and oil content (in dishes other than sausages and fried food) is minimal. Further, the accompaniments like olives, chickpeas, green beans and tomatoes do a lot to up the nutrient value of each meal; not to mention the heavy healthy seafood content in most meals.

Therefore, stick to balanced meals and look toward such studies only to improve your fried food's quality. Indian food can be healthy and can benefit from better and healthy cooking oils. We can indulge in fried foods; maybe even a little more than usual if the oil is healthy. But can we use this study to justify frequent and unabashed fried food intake? Absolutely not.

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