What is the Deal with Fried Food

We all know that fried food isn’t good for our health. Making healthy changes is challenging when our tradition and culture embraces the intake of fried foods when breaking fast during the month of Ramadan. Avoiding fried food during the month of fasting is not realistic for so many of us (myself included!) but decreasing the amount and how often you consume fried food are two keys to improving your health.

Why is Fried Food Bad?

Inflammation. The #1 reason why fried food is not great for your health is that it is inflammatory. Research shows that a significant contributor to chronic inflammation comes from the food we eat. Eating fried food daily can lead to weight gain, drowsiness, skin issues, digestive problems and a host of diseases like diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Normally, fried foods are cooked in vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, and canola (rapeseed). These oils are highly processed and include additives, pesticides, and chemicals. Olive oil and coconut oil are very different since they are pressed to extract the oil and do not undergo industrial processing that vegetable oils go through.

Additionally, vegetable oils have a high concentration of the inflammatory fat, omega-6, and are low in the anti-inflammatory fat, omega-3. Most of us have a very low intake of omega-3 fats and our body needs these fats to support hormones, brain health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The modern diet has a ratio close to 1:15 of omega 3 to omega 6 fats when we should have a ratio of 1:1. **A side note: canola oil is heavily processed but it does have a higher omega-3 profile compared to other vegetable oils. If you do use canola oil opt for expeller-pressed or cold-pressed canola oil that is organic or non-GMO.**

Fried Food and High Carbohydrates

Foods that are high in carbohydrates and fried – think donuts, French fries, mandazi, and Vitumbua (coconut rice cakes) have additional negative health consequences. These foods are made from refined wheat flours that have been stripped of fibre and nutrients – meaning your body breaks down refined flour to sugar very quickly. The faster your body digests glucose-containing foods, the faster your blood sugar levels rise, which also spikes your insulin levels. The combination of high fat and high carb is a double whammy on your blood sugars and inflammatory response. According to the Journal of Endocrinology, when we eat too much glucose-containing sugar, the excess glucose can increase levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar also suppresses the efficiency of our white blood cells, weakening our immune system and making us more susceptible to infectious diseases. 

What Happens When you Eat Fried Food on an Empty Stomach

Fried food is the single most recognized cause of acid reflux. It is also the food that is most often associated with heartburn. Fried foods are high in fat and can cause immediate side effects such as gas, bloating, and acid reflux. When we eat greasy fried foods, the volume of fat puts tremendous pressure on our digestive system. Compared to protein and carbohydrates, fat is the one macronutrient that is slowly digested, and it requires enzymes and digestive juices, to break it down. Since stress and medication can lower levels of digestive juices – adding a high volume of fat can cause your digestive system to work overtime, leading to bloating, nausea and discomfort.

When fatty foods break down they feed the less hospitable bacteria in your gut, which can diminish the good healthy bacteria that you need for a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

What is the Best Way to Eat Fried Food?

  1. Try not to have fried food every day. If you are looking to lose weight try not to have fried foods more than 2x a week.
  2. Portions! If you are eating fried foods make sure your portion fits in the palm of your hand.
  3. Don’t break your fast with fried food. Instead, load up on veggies, whole grains, and protein and save your fried food for the end once you have filled up on the good stuff!
  4. Do not reuse your oil. The high heat when using oil causes cancerous free radicals and can lead to other health problems. Make sure your oil has cooled down completely and transfer it to a container. It’s a good idea to discard your cooking oil once it has changed colour.
  5. Change up your cooking methods! Baking, broiling, and grilling are great alternatives to frying, which still tastes great with a fraction of the oil. You can also try shallow frying with using olive oil.
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