There's something about biting into crisp, crumb coated foods which often enclose gooey, cheesy filling. Or the joy of nibbling on deep-fried treats on a winter evening or while having friends over. Easy to dish out and delicious to the last bit, crispy food is everyone's favourite. But we are also all well aware about the dangers they come with when it concerns our health. Talk about obesity and heart disease, and they contribute hugely to the cause. So yes, we try and stay away from this category of foods as much as we can, trying to binge only occasionally.
While some have resort to air-fryers or baked treats which promise the same satisfaction associated with fried foods, there are also certain oils which can be used at home to make these treats healthier. In fact, a recent study done by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) in Spain states that frying vegetables in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) improves the chemical compounds present in the them.
The researchers have proven that frying in EVOO - unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil - is the cooking method that increases the phenolic - chemical compounds - fractions present in raw vegetables used especially in Mediterranean diet (potato, pumpkin, tomato and eggplant).
"Oil as a means of heat transfer increases the amount of phenolic compounds in vegetables, opposite to other cooking methods such as boiling, where heat transfer is done through the water," explained Cristina Samaniego Sánchez, a professor from UGR.
Vegetables fried in EVOO improved their antioxidant capacities and also acts as an active deterrent for chronic degenerative pathologies such as cancer, diabetes or macular degeneration, the study showed. Using EVOO for frying vegetables increases their fat content and reduces their moisture, while this is not observed in other cooking methods, the findings revealed.
Also, EVOO transfers phenols to the vegetables, enhancing the latter with oil-exclusive chemical compounds that are not naturally present in raw vegetables. Frying is the method that produces the greatest associated increases in the phenolic fraction, confirmed the researchers.
The researchers conducted an experiment in which they cooked 120 grams cubes of potato, pumpkin, tomato and eggplant, all of them without seeds or skin. The vegetables were fried and sautéed in EVOO, boiled in water, and boiled in a mix of water and EVOO. The ratio between vegetable and cooking element was constant, following traditional Spanish recipes.
Parallel to this, the research was completed with the determination of the content in individual phenolic compounds typical of each vegetable, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) - is a technique to separate, identify, and quantify each component in a mixture.
The article was published in Food Chemistry magazine. Although more research is required on this subject, we can still make a few changes in our kitchen cupboard to enjoy various foods and take care of our health too.