Findings from a Spanish study challenge a common preconception that fried automatically means unhealthy. The study, published in Food Chemistry, found that vegetables that are deep-fried in extra virgin olive oil contain more healthy phenols and antioxidants than raw or boiled vegetables, according to Food and Drink Europe. [related]
When vegetables are deep-fried, the phenols already present in extra virgin olive oil are transferred from the oil, thus boosting the vegetables with healthy compounds not naturally present in the vegetables themselves. The presence of these phenols and antioxidants are important in reducing the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.
The study measured fat, moisture, total phenols and phenolic compounds, and the antioxidant capacity of the vegetables before and after cooking. 120 grams of four vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant, and pumpkin) were deep-fried, sautéed, boiled in water, and boiled in a mixture of water and olive oil.
Lead researcher on the study, Cristina Samaniego, says, “We can confirm that frying is the method that produces the greatest associated increases in the phenolic fraction, which means an improvement in the cooking process although it increases the energy density by means of the absorbed oil.”