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Fried Food's Impact on You
If you were asked to avoid unhealthy foods for a week, you might think fried foods wouldn't make the menu. Americans get 53% of their daily total fat from added fats and oils, a large portion of which comes from fried foods. Because multiple studies have pointed to oil consumption, particularly saturated fat, as one of the key dietary contributors to chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, it's not surprising that many healthy eaters try to nix fried foods from their diets. Despite the evidence that fried food is less than healthy, a new study claims the frequency of eating fried food isn't linked to developing heart disease. But is there something behind their findings?
The Study: Mediterraneans Fry Foods But Stay Healthy
A Spanish study of over 40,000 adults reports that the frequency of eating fried foods had no effect on the development of coronary heart disease. In an 11- year follow-up, some 606 heart disease events took place and 1135 total deaths occurred. The study also points out the results did not vary between those who used olive oil and safflower oil. If you dig deeper into the results however, you'll discover the lifestyle behind the results. The people of Spain, a Mediterranean country, are known for their healthy lifestyle. The use of healthy fats in cooking, occasional red meat consumption, and regular physical activity, are indicators that would help reduce the incidence of heart disease. That said, the specific effect of fried food consumption can't be separated from the population's generally healthy habits.
The Difference in America
The reason why the results of the study should not send Americans to the deep-fryer is because of the disparate overall rate of heart disease in the country. Spain stands 24th out of 26 countries in Europe with a minuscule rate of heart disease deaths at just 53.8 per 100,000. In contrast, heart disease is the number one killer in America at 186.5 per 100,000 in 2008. In America, fried foods go beyond the scope of cooking oil in a pan. The staggering amount of total fat from added oils in American stands at 74.5 pounds per person per year according to USDA numbers from the year 2000, 29 of which are attributed to baking and frying fats. This number is 67% higher than it was in the 1950's.
Choosing Fried Foods
If you're counting calories and eating a healthy diet, using discretionary calories to eat fried foods is an allowable treat every so often. Be prepared to watch your portion size and the type of fried food you're eating. While you're better to go baked or steamed, if you must, consider this: if you're eating a 2000 calorie a day diet, you have 260 calories to work with. Two pieces of dark fried chicken accounts for 431 calories, while the baked version is about half the calories and almost 20 grams less fat regardless of the oil used. A cup of steamed rice is about 242 calories, while a cup of fried rice is about 390 calories and 10 additional grams of fat. Regardless of the recent study's findings, the additional calories and fat grams that fried foods add to your diet can have a negative impact on your health if eaten regularly and in large portions.
When did you give up fried food and how has it changed your daily caloric intake?