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The authors accompanied their conclusions with warnings, first and foremost among them being that, even at high levels, Spanish adults don't eat as many fried foods as Americans do. And olive oil is healthier than most of the highly refined vegetable and plant oils used in American kitchens. "Our results are directly applicable only to Mediterranean countries with frying methods similar to those in Spain," they wrote.
Even if fried foods in the U.S. were determined not to cause heart disease, they're still not a good idea, says Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor (with Tyler Graham) of The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body (Rodale, 2011). "Fried foods lead to an increased risk of depression," he says, "and that's the most dangerous disease in America right now." (Antidepressants are the most widely prescribed class of drugs in the country.)
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"In general, I'm against home fryers. I don't have one, and it's not a smart, healthy, easy way to cook," he says, adding that you should also take any advice to use sunflower oil with a grain of salt. "It's high in omega-6s, which have been linked to depression, and when you heat sunflower oil up over and over again, it leads to the creation of trans fats," he adds; though you may never reuse oil for frying foods at home, it's common practice at restaurants.
If you are trying to make something that resembles a fried favorite, Ramsey recommends a small amount of olive oil, butter, or lard and pan-frying it. "Olive oil isn't great for high heat," but he says it's useful for quickly pan-frying vegetables or meat. "And remember, you don't need much. A little fat goes a long way."