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Which Fried Chicken Sandwich Is The Healthiest?

Craving fried chicken? Find out here from a nutrition expert what fried chicken sandwich is the best!

Photo by DLKR from Pexels


Wondering about what is really in your fried chicken sandwich? With so many delicious options available, it can be hard to know if your drive-thru meal is affecting your health. Which fried chicken sandwich is the healthiest?


The short answer? It’s probably the fried chicken sandwich you make at home or the one you eat sparingly. Studies suggest keeping fried food consumption to once a week or less.


Read on to learn more about fried chicken sandwiches and how they play into your health plan.


Can Fried Chicken Be Healthy?

You might be wondering what fried chicken does to your body. Eating fried food every once in a while is perfectly fine. Eating fried chicken everyday, however, might have a negative impact on your overall health.


A Look At Recent Research

A recent study found that men who reported eating fried chicken and other fried food more than once a week had an increased risk (by about 30-37%) of prostate cancer than those who ate fried foods less than once a month. Weekly consumption of fried foods was also associated with a slightly higher risk of having a more aggressive prostate cancer.


Another study showed that those who ate fried food more than four times a week also had a 37% increased risk of gaining weight and becoming overweight or obese than those eating fried foods less than twice a week.


From the available research, experts say that the link between disease and deep-fried food is limited to those who consume high levels of fried food. However, “high levels” in most cases was defined as more than one a week. Many people would describe that as their regular level of consumption, so it is important to understand the implications.




How Fried Chicken Is Made

Frying food essentially increases the amount of fat that is a part of that food. The final item, after frying, can be nearly half fat by weight. Understanding the methods behind deep frying and frying help explain the possible health effects.


Deep-frying chicken includes heating oil to high temperatures. This means that the oil forms new compounds, and some of these compounds formed are potentially carcinogenic. One such compound is called acrylamide, and it is found in foods like french fries.


Other potentially carcinogenic compounds and oxidation products formed by deep-frying include:

  • Heterocyclic amines

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

  • Aldehyde

  • Acrolein

  • Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs)

Toxic compounds increase with frying time and with reuse of oil. For example, a chicken breast deep-fried for 20 minutes contains nine times the AGEs that a chicken breast that was boiled for 1 hour. Frying chicken makes it much more calorie-dense. Unfortunately, fried chicken isn’t usually made with the healthiest fats.


Remember that everyone’s body is different and that each individual will respond to ingestion of these compounds differently. Some people may tolerate them well while others have heightened responses because of them.


Can Fried Chicken Cause Heartburn?

Heartburn may be an acute response to fried foods, however long-term risks are what worry health experts.


Frequently eating fried food is linked to increased risk of

  • Dying from cardiovascular disease

  • Developing central obesity

  • Developing hypertension

  • Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy



Which Fried Chicken Sandwich Is The Best?

When finding the best, healthiest fried chicken sandwich, it’s first important to look at the oil it is being fried in.


The oils used to deep-fry foods are typically high in:

  • Omega-6 fats

  • Saturated fats

  • Trans-fatty acids

Foods fried in oils like olive oil are likely not linked to quite as many negative health effects. Vegetable oils like olive oil are higher in “healthy”, unsaturated fats. Using fresh oil and discarding after use, such as in home-cooking, can be healthier than eating fried food at restaurants, where they heat the same oil over and over again.


Another way to fry chicken and make it “healthier” is to use an air fryer! Try to pick healthy add-ons as well, such as whole wheat buns or a lot of vegetables (as opposed to something like bacon or butter-heavy sauces or creams).


Diet Tech Approved Recipes

These recipes for fried chicken sandwiches take the classic and make it a bit healthier:




A Final Word On Fried Chicken Sandwiches

The goal of this article isn’t to convince you to stop eating fried foods. Instead, the aim of this article is to inform you of the risks and benefits to help you make the best decision for your own health. As a nutrition expert, I recommend limiting fried chicken sandwiches, or any fried food, to once a week at maximum — or, make healthier fried foods at home with ingredients like veggies, veggie oils, and whole wheat buns.

 

References


Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Eating Deep-Fried Food Is Associated With an Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer. Todaysdietitian.com. Accessed November 2021.


Lauretta A. Ask the Nutritionist: How Bad Is Fried Food For You, Really? Tlcme.com. Published June 9, 2016.


Zelman K. A Dietitian’s Dream: Healthy Fried Food. Foodandnutrition.org. Published February 6, 2018.


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