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13 Cooking Methods And How They Affect Your Health

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So, what's for dinner? From meatloaf to pasta and salad to stir-fry, for many the options are limitless. All you need is a good cookbook, some ingredients on hand, and a little know-how.

When it comes to our health FOODS AND BEVERAGES are the most important things we put into our bodies. It goes above air pollution, skin products, and chemical laden cleaning solutions.

The foods we eat and the fluids we drink, alongside sleep, exercise, and stress management, are an integral part to the foundations of health. Making sure you get adequate fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean sources of protein is truly the best recommendation I can make as a naturopathic doctor; it is the key to resolving many health concerns as well as keeping you healthy for the long journey ahead of you.

While eating healthy is key, it is often easier said than done. We all know that a carrot is more nutritious than a chocolate bar, but healthy food can get confusing when it comes time to pull out the cookware and get something on your plate.

"Can I cook my vegetables or is it best to eat them raw? Should I cook with olive oil , and what about the microwave?" These are questions I frequently hear from clients who want to eat better and maximize their healthy eating efforts, but are just not sure how to go about it.

Healthy foods shouldn't be complicated and knowing how to prepare the plethora of nutritious grains, organic produce, and essential fats you just purchased at the grocery store can be the difference between wanting to eat better and actually doing it.

So here's the 411 on how to prepare what's in your fridge; you'll amaze your friends with your healthy culinary know-how!

1. Raw

When it comes to retaining the most nutrients and fiber from your fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and oils (and even fish) eating raw is best.

However, some people are unable to digest raw and so blended, juiced or lightly steamed are your next best options. And while some like to eat meat on the rarer side making sure to cook your steak thoroughly will ensure you destroy any harmful bacteria.

2. Bake

Baking your foods is a great, healthy, cooking option, however, you want to avoid baking in oils that can become rancid at elevated temperatures.

Coconut oil is one of the best oils to cook with as over 90 per cent of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very heat resistant. Also ensure that you slow roast in your oven at lower temperatures to ensure that you don't burn your foods. Those crispy parts can actually be dangerous for your health, and have been linked to the development of certain cancers (1).

3. Stew

I love stews. They offer a slow cooking option that uses the foods own juices to soften and retain most nutrients.

I use my slow cooker on a regular basis; it's great for busy people who don't have the time to prepare a healthy meal after a hectic day. Before getting out the door in the morning grab a lean protein, some healthy vegetables, stock (soup, coconut milk, etc) and spices, throw it all in the slow cooker, set it and forget it until you get home to the aroma of a nutritious meal.

4. Steam

Steaming your vegetables is a great way to avoid deep frying, however don't throw out the water at the end. A lot of the nutrients from the vegetables leaches out and into the water, so I always use as little water to steam as possible and use the water as gravy or save it to throw it into a pot of soup later.

5. Boil

Boiling is the same concept as steaming. If you're boiling a soup, a lot of the nutrients will be maintained in the liquid, so make sure you drink up.

6. Pan Fry

Pan frying with stable oils is ideal. I use olive, coconut or sesame oils at home. If you have access, ghee can also work well. Make sure to use lower heat if possible so that the oils don't go rancid.

7. Deep Fry

Stay away if you can. The high heats with unstable oils can be very harmful to the body. There are some synthetic oils that don't breakdown (ie. Olestra), but it has its own health concerns.

8. Dehydration

Dehydrated foods done at home can be a great way to make some healthy snacks. Keep the fruits, vegetables and meats in the fridge to make sure they don't spoil after dehydrating.

Store bought dehydrated or dried snacks, however, have lots of sugar and preservatives added to them (ie. sulfur) and these can be irritating to your digestive tract and lungs. In fact many asthma sufferers experience a sulfite hypersensitivity (2).

9. BBQ

Barbecuing only once in a while is best and avoid those charred pieces of food. The fat content on meats when charred, as mentioned in #2, can have carcinogenic properties that can accumulate over time.

10. Freeze Dry

Freeze dried fruits and vegetables are the second best source of retained nutrients aside from fresh. This is a great alternative for those who are on the run and don't have time to buy fresh produce on a regular basis. I also love it for making cold smoothies.

11. Microwave

Microwaving is controversial for many, but science shows that it is similar to other cooking methods when it comes to retaining nutrients (3). I still try to limit my radiation exposure (despite being safe in low doses) because of the added effect over my lifetime.

12. Blend

Blending is my preferred form of liquefying my produce because it maintains fiber content and is an easy way to get all my nutrients on the go. Smoothies are a great breakfast or snack option to help you get added fiber and veg into your diet. Try blending spinach or kale, mango, chia seeds, and my secret green ingredient: frozen avocado!

13. Juice

Juiced fruits and veggies have the potential to filter out a lot of the fiber content and therefore some of the nutrients. There are more expensive brands that 'press' out the juice including the fiber and I recommend those over filtered.

While we all know that oranges are a healthy choice, if you were to grab one and start eating it without peeling it first it might leave you questioning this afternoon snack.

Most of us know what foods we should be eating, but knowing how to prepare these foods to maximize the nutrient quality can keep our tummies happy and are bodies healthy.

So, maybe a better question to ask is, HOW will you cook dinner tonight?

References

  1. National Cancer Institute: Chemicals in Meat Cooked At High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet. Accessed June 17, 2016.
  2. S.M Tarlo & G.L. Sussman. Asthma and anaphylactoid reactions to food additives. Can Fam Physician. 1993 May; 39: 1119-1123.
  3. Cross GA, Fung DY. The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1982;16(4):355-81.
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