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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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?
- 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.
- S.M Tarlo & G.L. Sussman. Asthma and anaphylactoid reactions to food additives. Can Fam Physician. 1993 May; 39: 1119-1123.
- 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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Buttery avocado oil is chockablock in monounsaturated fat, the kind considered to be heart-healthy because of its powers to improve cholesterol numbers. This über fruit oil also supplies lutein, an antioxidant that improves eye health, and the white coats at Ohio State University determined that the oil can goose salad's potency by improving the absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants such as beta-carotene present in vegetables. Best Uses: With what is considered to be highest smoke point of any plant oil -- about 520 degrees -- ultra-versatile avocado oil can be used for all your high-heat cooking needs such as grilling and pan-roasting. It's also stellar when added to salad dressings, as a garnish for soups like gazpacho or drizzled over homemade pizza, crusty bread or even slices of watermelon.
Greener than Al Gore, this earthy-tasting oil pressed from hemp seeds abounds in essential fatty acids such as omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, which may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to studies. Hemp oil also delivers gamma linolenic acid, an omega 6 that emerging research says can improve skin health by reducing conditions like roughness and dryness. Though hemp may bring to mind peace, love and tie-dyes, the variety of hemp grown for food production contains virtually none of the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. Best Uses: Hemp oil is too delicate to be heated, so save it for dips, pestos and dressings -- anywhere you would use extra-virgin olive oil.
Toasty, richly flavored, aromatic hazelnut oil provides vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that appears to keep your mind and hearing sharp. What's more, nearly 80 percent of the fat in hazelnut oil is the ticker-boosting monounsaturated kind. As with hemp oil, delicate nut oils like hazelnut should be stored in the refrigerator once opened to preserve freshness. Buy only the amount you'll use within three to six months for peak flavor. Best Uses: Skip the frying pan and use hazelnut oil to gussy-up cooked rice, quinoa or oatmeal. Whisked with lemon juice, it's delicious strewn over pasta, roasted vegetables and steamed greens. Or work it into your chocolate sauces and slip a few drops into your morning cup of joe or bowl of ice cream.
This byproduct of winemaking has a clean, light flavor and is a good source of both vitamin E and oleic acid, a fat that may help slash stroke risk by up to 73 percent, according to a recent study in the journal Neurology. Further, scientists at the University of California found oleic acid may curb hunger pangs by being converted into an appetite-quelling hormone. Look for expeller-pressed grapeseed oil, meaning it was extracted by crushing the seeds in a mechanical press without the use of harsh chemicals such as hexane. Best Uses: A neutral flavor makes grapeseed oil a jack-of-all-cooking-trades and is especially good if you don't want to taste the oil in your recipe, such as when preparing kale chips, sautéing onions or baking sweet potato fries. It emulsifies very well, so use it for making mayonnaise and creamy dressings that won't separate when chilled. Grapeseed oil can also substitute butter or shortening in most baked good recipes.
Made by pressing the oil out of ground almond paste, almond oil has a mild nutty flavor and pale yellow hue. It's plush in monounsaturated fat (like olive and avocado oil), vitamin E and phytosterols, plant compounds shown to improve cholesterol numbers. Doing double-duty as vanity fare, it's also lauded as a topical skin moisturizer. Buy all your fruit or nut oils packaged in dark containers to help stymie deterioration from light sources. Best Uses: Add subtle almond nuances to a range of baked goods, including cookies, quick breads and muffins. Homemade granola goes gourmet when made with almond oil, or whirl up your own nut butter by blending together whole almonds with almond oil in a food processor. Roasted almond oil has a more robust nut flavor, so it can add rich taste to salad dressings, pasta dishes and soups.
This up-and-comer hails from China and is made by pressing the seeds of the Camellia sinensis plant -- the same one that brings forth your green tea and Earl Grey, but instead of the astringency the drink can sometimes have, tea seed oil has a subtle lemony flavor. While it's a bit scarce, it's worth seeking out, as research shows it's abundant in cholesterol-reducing sterols and unsaturated fatty acids that make your heart happy, and has strong antioxidant activity. Best Uses: Tea seed oil performs great at high temperatures, so use it when preparing Asian-inspired dishes (here's looking at you, stir-fry) with less worry of smoking yourself out of the kitchen. Its light and smooth flavor won’t cover your food's taste, so also try it in marinades and dips or with roasted vegetables.
Poised to give its popular tropical cousin coconut oil a run for its money, this brightly colored oil is laced with antioxidants, including vitamin E and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A, which is used to promote eye, bone and immune health. Higher intakes of alpha-carotene, on the other hand, may be protective against mortality from heart disease, according to research out of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Look for brands that source their red palm oil sustainably, such as taking steps to avoid destroying animal-friendly rainforest for palm plantations. Best Uses: Palm oil is heat-stable, so it's a good choice for your frying pan or as a replacement for butter when baking. Its buttery flavor works well in curries, rice and fish dishes, sauces and spreads, as well as in smoothies or drizzled over popcorn and roasted potatoes.
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