Are Onion Rings Good for Weight Loss? Only if You Eat Them Like This

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 13 October 2022

A person's pointer and thumb are grasping a crispy opinion ring that's orange-yellow with the bottom half covered in ranch as they pull it out of a ranch cup that contains green chives, which makes them question, "Are onion rings good for weight loss?".

Are onion rings good for weight loss?

Truth be told, onion rings can be made good for weight loss, but only if you eat them like this—with less ranch, light oil, less salt, and breading alternatives—all of which can be done at home using the methods below.

However, understanding why onion rings are typically bad for weight loss and how these restaurant preparation methods can sabotage your diet and your health can help motivate you to make them yourself rather than ordering them the next time you eat out.

Are Onion Rings Good for Weight Loss or Bad for You?

As far as overall health goes, onion rings are far from being the ideal food that—but are onion rings good for weight loss?

They certainty are not not the first choice in a weight loss regimen or diet, but they can be made healthier since one of the main reasons they’re not-so healthy is due to the preparation methods. 

This rings true for onion rings sold in restaurants as appetizers—they are a popular fried substitute for French fries, which speak volumes about their track record for weight loss. 

As far as the preparation goes, onion rings are made from onions, usually white or yellow, cut into large circles. These are then dipped into a batter and fried in vegetable oil. The batter is usually prepared with flour, bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and beer.

A square black plate is holding golden brown onions rings with black dots of seasoning over them and there's four bright green lime slices on the right and an orange dipping sauce in the background.

Patrons do not often have a say on the ingredients that go into onion rings when they order them at restaurants. Their nutritional content is often on par with French fries, with an average serving having over 400 kcal and 22 grams of fat, including 8 grams of saturated fats. Saturated fats increase the risk for heart disease since they may cause cholesterol build-up in the arteries and are high in calories, which induces weight gain.1

Why Onion Rings Are Bad for Weight Loss & High In Calories

Onion rings are high in calories primarily because of how they are prepared and the extra ingredients that can go into them. Before frying them, onions are a healthy food source, but the methods of preparing the rings give this nutritious vegetable a bad reputation. 

Among the ingredients that make them bad for weight loss is their preparation with vegetable oil or breading, which makes these appetizers mouthwatering. They often contain a high amount of salt, another villain in the food narrative.

Frying Onions Rings Increases Trans Fats Due to Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils

Onion rings are often prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oils, which increases the amount of trans fats they contain. What are hydrogenated vegetable oils, and what is their relationship with trans fats? Vegetable oil is manufactured from oils extracted from soybeans, sunflowers, canola, or even olives.2 

For the most part, these oils are liquid at room temperature. This does not favor shelf life—therefore, companies hydrogenate these oils, adding hydrogen molecules to the oil, altering both texture and giving them stability, thus improving shelf life.3

The process of hydrogenation creates trans fats—a kind of unsaturated fat that may have adverse health problems.4 Fats can broadly be classified as saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are known this way because of their chemical structure and usually come from animal fats, while unsaturated fats are usually derived from plant fats. 

Trans fats not healthy for the heart and blood vessels.5 This is because:

  • They raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. Cholesterol is a substance made by the liver that is fat-like.
  • Cause inflammation (this a state where the body dispatches specialized cells to fight foreign invaders such as bacteria or to heal an injury) in the body leading to health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • They are a factor in causing insulin resistance—when the cells in the body don’t react to insulin and therefore can’t use glucose from the blood for energy prompting the pancreas to produce more insulin which leads to elevated blood sugar levels.6

Staying away from trans fats is relatively easy if someone pays attention to the nutritional information of food. 

Breading Is Usually Full of Empty Calories (Are Onion Rings Good for Weight Loss When Made Without Breading?)

Onion rings can be bad for weight loss because they are breaded and full of empty calories. Anyone who has munched down on pizza or chips and feels hungry not too long after has had the manifestation of empty calories from their meal. Processed foods are packed with empty calories and contain a high amount of sugar, salt, and solid fat.

Solid fat and sugars increase the number of calories without interjecting nutrients (nutrients are compounds in food such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals) essential to the body. Breaded dishes, in this case, onion rings, are among the top foods that contribute to empty calories in the United States.7 Fried foods tend to fill someone up temporarily but individuals end up yearning for more food, leading to weight gain.

In addition, added sugars like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, are empty calories. The body breaks these down, which causes the blood sugar levels to spike, resulting in an insulin spike leading to insulin resistance in the long run. 

Onions Rings Are Usually Full of Sodium

High levels of sodium that are present in onion rings make them bad for individuals who are concerned about weight gain. Sodium is a necessary nutrient in the human body to maintain processes such as nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and transportation of nutrients.8

Eating onion rings with high levels of sodium may cause weight loss due to the body’s affinity to retain more fluid leading to a short-term weight gain—typically, eating foods high in salt causes thirst.9 As a general rule, most foods high in sodium will also have increased calories, leading to increased fat storage in the body, and causing obesity.10 The typical onion ring serving may contain over 700 milligrams of sodium.

Are onion rings good for weight loss? The high amount of sodium makes eating onion rings a bad choice for those keen on shedding some pounds.

How Many Calories Are in Onion Rings?

A portion of a serving of 8-9 onion rings that are breaded and fried has 275.56 kcal, 3.7 grams of protein, 31.32 grams of carbohydrates, and 429.94 milligrams of sodium.11 Some macronutrients for onion rings at certain restaurants can exceed 1900 kcal and pack 160 grams of fat. 

A deep fryer basket is submerged in sizzling vegetable oil and has seven light yellow onion rings being cooked while someone flips the rings from the top with chop sticks.

It is fair to say onion rings are bad for weight loss because of their high-calorie count. How many calories are on a cheat day? Eating onion rings can make someone erase all the gains they’ve made in a week on a cheat day. 

How To Make Healthier Onion Rings

The good news is that onion rings need not be banished from a diet only if you eat them like this, allowing them to be included in a meal plan by making them healthier. These methods include preparing them differently by using different oils, replacing the hydrogenated vegetable oils with something healthier, and using less salt.

Use an Air Fryer With Virgin Olive Oils or Coconut Oil

An air fryer is a fairly newer kitchen appliance that is popular due to its benefits. Air fryers do not fry food but rather circulate hot air—convection cooking. The result is that food cooked this way maintains a crispy and crunchy feel, a signature of fried foods that makes them so popular and tasty.

An air fryer has numerous benefits over deep frying:

  • Uses Less Oil to Cook

These appliances use only one tablespoon of cooking oil rather than multiple ounces, which is an amazing characteristic. As stated earlier, deep frying onion rings causes high fat and calories, leading to health issues. Air fryers will produce the same crunchy food as regular deep frying but without the use of too much oil. 

Air fryers use convection (heated air) infused with fine droplets of cooking oil that remove the moisture from the food (dehydrates), in this case, onion rings—giving that texture that characterizes the fried food.12 The downside is that the food takes longer to cook, but this pales compared to the benefits of this cooking method.

In addition, this method improves the flavor and color of food by activating the chemical process known as the Maillard effect, which makes food so tasty and has an enticing aroma.13

  • Preserves Nutrients

Cooking with an air fryer is a form of low-fat frying that helps preserve certain nutrients such as vitamin C and phenolic in food such as potatoes, yams, and kales.14

Some nutrients are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Nutrients such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) are usually lost because they dissolve in water—unless the water is consumed, these will be lost. Other vitamins A, D, and E dissolve in oil. Frying food will thus lead to the nutrients being leached into the oil.

Since air frying requires little oil, most of these nutrients are preserved. This method of cooking also uses no water, which preserves water-soluble nutrients. 

  • Decreased Levels of Acrylamide

Air frying food decreases levels of acrylamide—this chemical is a known carcinogen that can potentially cause cancer. Acrylamide usually forms when food, especially starchy foods, are cooked at high temperatures, and air fryers reduce these levels by as much as 80% compared to deep frying.15

  • Helps Manage Weight

Swapping an air fryer for regular deep frying means that less oil is used, which implies less fat and calories in the food. Care should be taken to not fry regularly, even with this method that uses less oil, just as it would be for those asking how many slices of pizza should I eat on a diet. Moderation is the key, especially when dealing with fried food. 

Air frying can help manage weight, and enjoying onion rings because it can aid in weight loss but also help curb hunger pangs which stops someone from gobbling down excessive onion rings.

  • Safer Alternative and Helps Save Electricity

Air fryers are also generally safer than frying in a deep pan as this could easily spill and become a fire hazard. They are also efficient and use less electricity than other regular fryers.

In addition to using an air fryer, the issue of the oil has to be addressed, which is the total exclusion of hydrogenated vegetable oils that have the drawbacks discussed earlier. Healthier oils such as olive and coconut oil could be used instead. 

Olive oil maintains its benefits when cooking, which include:

  • It is rich in healthy monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) which reduces inflammation and is resistant to high heat, thus preserving its benefits.
  • This oil does the opposite of vegetable oil, which protects against heart disease. The Mediterranean diet has an abundance of olive oil and has very low incidences of heart attacks.16
  • Olive oil does not favor weight gain and obesity and is healthy for weight loss.17
  • This highly consumed oil in Mediterranean diets may also reduce the risk of diabetes as opposed to trans fats.18

Cooking onion rings with coconut confers these benefits:

  • Some studies show that coconut oil may help individuals lose weight by reducing appetite.19
  • This oil, like olive oil, also helps protect against heart disease by decreasing the levels of lipids (fats in the blood) in the bloodstream.20

Use An Alternate Form of Breading Such as Chickpea Bread Crumbs and Whole Wheat Flour

Breading the onion rings with conventional bread crumbs leads to empty calories that have no nutritional value, which results in weight gain. To make onion rings healthy and nutritious, bread crumbs alternatives made from chickpeas may be used.

And just like those asking, is bang good for weight loss, the breading alternatives for onion rings is much like the low calorie sugar alternatives used in energy drinks because they keep the calories low and the flavors alive.  

Chickpeas are legumes packed with protein containing all 9 essential amino acids that help the human body function well. They are the complete protein and one of the best sources for non-animal protein and are an excellent breading alternative because:

  • High in fiber—they are high in fiber, making the onion rings filling compensate for the empty calories offered by conventional bread crumbs.
  • Low levels of sodium—chickpeas have very low levels of sodium and have no cholesterol and are an excellent source of polyunsaturated fats; these lower cholesterol levels in the body, making them good for heart health.
  • Low glycemic index—this legume has a low glycemic index and thus will not cause blood sugar levels to spike. The glycemic index classifies food containing carbohydrates and their ability to increase blood sugar levels, and how quickly they do it.21
  • Gluten free—chickpeas are gluten-free. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat for which certain individuals develop celiac disease from consuming.22

Chickpeas breading can be bought from stores or easily made at home, which is the better option since additives can be added to commercial breading to increase shelf life. 

A decorative glass bowl of is leaned to the right and has countless chick peas falling out of it and onto a brown mat with cross hatching on it.

Instead of regular flour, whole wheat should be used to prepare onion rings. The flour used in cooking onion rings is usually refined and stripped of nutrients. Whole grain kernels are composed of bran, germ, and endosperm, and these parts contribute to the overall nutrients of the grain.23

  • The Bran—is full of fiber, iron, zinc, copper, antioxidants (these protect the body from free radicals, which are molecules the body produces as a result of breaking down food or when exposed to harmful substances such as smoke), and vitamins.
  • Germ—this is the core of the grain and contains healthy fats, vitamin E, vitamin B, and antioxidants.
  • Endosperm—this holds protein, carbohydrates, vitamin B, and minerals.

Therefore, using whole wheat ensures nutrition is present, and the negative qualities inherent in processed wheat flour to make white bread and crumbs are negated. Are onion rings good for weight loss? No, but alternate breading will make them healthier, leading to weight loss. 

Go Light on the Salt and/or Sodium

Salt and/or sodium is a major contributor to the negative aspects of this delicious appetizer. In addition to the methods above, the salt content will need to be lowered to make onion rings healthier. Sodium which is contained in salt, as mentioned before contributes to weight gain and hypertension (high blood pressure).

This leads to other life-threatening issues such as heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, and other health issues. The recommendation is that individuals limit their consumption to 2400 milligrams which translates to roughly 6 grams of salt—1 teaspoon per day.24 About 25% of salt consumption comes from sprinkling salt on food; the rest is sourced from processed foods including bread, processed meats, and dairy products.

Using chickpea breading as a replacement for bread will vastly help decrease the salt content, especially if the bread crumbs are homemade. Individuals should read labels of sodium content in any processed food they may use to prepare the onion rings and adjust accordingly.

The amount of salt consumed should be decreased by at least 3 grams—studies have shown that this would lower cases of heart disease and stroke by 60,000 and 32,000, respectively.25

Therefore, an effort should be made to lighten the salt for healthier onion rings. 

Ranch or Dipping Sauces Use Sparingly or Low Calorie Alternatives

Ranch and other dipping sauces like blue cheese are ultra high in calories and provide little to no nutritional value. Of course sauce are the other half to what makes onion rings tasty, so using low calorie ranch or blue cheese can allow you to keep dipping the rings without feeling guilty. 

When craving a tasty appetizer, rather than asking, “Are onion rings good for weight loss,” you’ll know they are not, but if you eat them like this, the savory taste remains and won’t add inches to the waistline or, worse, causing health problems.

Frequently Asked Questions About Are Onion Rings Good for Weight Loss

Are Raw Onions Good for Weight Loss or Burning Belly Fat?

Raw onions are excellent for weight loss and burning belly fat. They contain soluble fiber, which stimulates the growth of bacteria beneficial to the stomach (prebiotic). This is important for both weight and fat loss. Additionally,  they are low in calories and comprise quercetin, a flavonoid that increases metabolism and reduces fat buildup, consequently helping to burn belly fat.

Are Onion Rings Good for Diabetics?

Onion rings are not good for people with diabetes because of their preparation methods. They are typically cooked with vegetable oil that produces trans fats that cause inflammation in the body, paving the way for health issues such as diabetes. This makes onion rings an unideal option for diabetics as they may exacerbate the problem.

Which is Better: Onion Rings or French Fries?

French fries are better and healthier than onion rings. This is because they have fewer calories, a higher fiber content, and lower levels of fat and sugar. In addition, French fries contain several vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, K, potassium, magnesium, and iron.


References

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About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.