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Is Fried Food Really That Bad For Us? Really?

Yes, really.

According to a study published in BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal), frequent consumption of fried foods can lead to a serious outcome: early death. Yup; you read right…early death.

Researchers looked at data from 100,000 women followed since the mid 1990’s. Now between the ages of 50-79, these women’s data has revealed some not so surprising results.

Those who said they consumed 1 serving of fried food each day had an 8% higher chance of early death compared with women who ate little or no fried food.

Of the foods included in the study, chicken was found to have the biggest impact on wellness, which is no surprise. But what is surprising is the dramatic impact it has. Women who reported only 1 serving a week of fried chicken had a 13% higher chance of dying early and a 12% of dying early, specifically of heart disease. 1 serving a week!!!! People who ate fried chicken 4 to 7 times a week had a 68% higher chance of dying early or from heart disease.

But here’s what really blew my doors off. Nowhere in all the follow-up studies I read that supported the claim made in the new research was chicken actually mentioned as the culprit.

Wait…what?

Yup, you read right. The research I read takes great pains to talk about the sodium in the batter and the unhealthy quality of the oil since it’s often used and re-used, especially in fast food restaurants, making for an extremely unhealthy product. And that’s true.

But to not mention the impact on human wellness of frying chicken is criminal. Does it not occur to researchers to look at the impact of frying saturated fat?

Seriously, when are we going to discuss the impact on wellness that frying saturated fat might be…well…bad for us? In article after article that I read I discovered experts discussing trans fats, excessive fat intake, calories in fried foods, excessive salt in fried foods but no one, not one expert that I found talked about the fact that we’re frying meat, saturated fats.

In a merchandising environment in which healthy attributes are increasingly powerful, it’s amazing to me that fried meat and poultry remain prominent. While some consumers see fried foods as containing large amounts of fat and calories, a significant base is willing to accept them in return for flavorful meat and poultry. Sixty-seven percent of consumers who purchase chicken from retail prepared foods areas, for instance, indicate they would consider fried options.

Analysts indicate that sales of fried chicken dishes is growing and there is greater interest in fried chicken sandwiches for breakfast. Fried chicken is one of the consumer’s top choices when they want to indulge and not think about health too much. Ugh.

Here’s the kicker though: to ease concerns from wellness-conscious shoppers, more merchandisers are incorporating health-oriented elements in their selections, like allegedly all-natural proteins and products that were developed without the use of antibiotics. The result is that while no chains argue that fried chicken is healthy, they’re trying to highlight that it is made from higher quality ingredients thereby positioning it as more of a balanced indulgence.

The 2018 Power of Meat report (yup, it’s a thing…) says this: “Retailers do not have to focus on the health conversation when marketing fried meat and poultry, but instead spotlight meal solutions in which fried chicken might come with such healthy side dishes as salad, vegetables and fruit. It is more about shopper marketing and communications than anything else. Consumers also are recognizing that it is fine to eat foods that are not the healthiest if it is done in moderation.” OMG!

Fried meat and poultry merchandisers are also can benefitting by responding to consumers’ interest in adding more protein to their diets, analysts say.

The 2018 Power of Meat report notes that 64 percent of nutrition-focused shoppers say they are interested in protein content, along with 67 percent of young Millennials, 58 percent of older Millennials, 55 percent of Generation Xers and 42 percent of Baby Boomers.

It seems that when it comes to healthy or unhealthy perceptions, a particular preparation method may not be as important as other attributes, like being high in protein or nutrient-dense. While fried meat has a very unhealthy perception, some choices, especially fried chicken, remain very popular and are enjoying a renaissance.

The trendiness of fried chicken, meanwhile, can spur retailers to offer more interesting items, like different breading flavors, dipping sauces and side dishes, making a fried meal more of an experience than an unhealthy endeavor. The positive perception of fried foods, and particularly poultry, is increasing, experts note.  

Now I try really hard not to be an out-of-touch vegan, but seriously people? How many more studies do we have to read (remembering that 100,000 women were followed for 20 years) before we wake up?

I know that cheap fried foods are often turned to when money is tight. I know that not every one of us can eat an all-organic diet if our budget is limited. I know we are conditioned as a culture to want fried foods as a reward for how tough our lives are? We deserve it, right? Do we also deserve heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, too? Do we?

I am the first person to say that each and every one of us has to do the best we can when it comes to food choices. I love baby steps that gradually get us to making healthier choices. I love that the people who come to me for advice and guidance don’t feel as though I am judging them for their lifestyles (because I am not…). I love to welcome everyone into my little world and share I have learned in this life.

But…but…fried chicken? Come on kids. We can do better than that.

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