Ask A Nutritionist: What are the Healthiest Cooking Methods?
When it comes to preparing a meal, no two techniques are alike. After all, there are schools dedicated to the discipline and method of cooking. Cooking is something that has been a necessity since our ancestors came to understand fire. It is something that we evolved as we came to learn how to experiment with it. And it is still evolving today. But what do we know about how healthy some cooking methods are?
Just like how some types of food are better for you more than others, the same logic can apply to cooking methods. What is the best cooking technique? What preserves most vitamins, nutrients, and fiber? Are there different techniques better for special diets? How much of it is a cultural thing, and how much is it just good for you? The only way to find out is to compare and contrast cooking techniques. Let’s see what works best, according to nutritionists.
Basic Human Digestion
The consensus among most scientists and nutritionists is that you need a combination of things that are both hard and easy to digest. Both things help keep your body regular. There is also the importance of making sure you have a variety of vitamins and minerals that helps keep your body functioning.
How Cooking and Heat Works on Vegetables and Meats
Cooking, as a process, works to break down the muscle and fibers of meats. This makes it easier for people to chew and digest meats and vegetables. And almost every single type of cooking technique, aside from fermentation, requires something to work. Heat.
The heat usually comes from different sources and each cooking technique depends on other variables such as water, the presence of oils, access to air, and even space limitation. These elements, depending on the choices we make, can change the properties of the food in both a positive or negative way.
Unhealthy Cooking Can Destroy Vital Nutrients and Increase Calorie Count
Some cooking techniques can warp food in ways that it is almost unrecognizable and too unhealthy.
According to Harvard evolutionary biologist, Rachel Carmody “Cooked items are often listed as having fewer calories than raw items, yet the process of cooking meat gelatinizes the collagen protein in meat, making it easier to chew and digest—so cooked meat has more calories than raw. Heat also denatures(breaks down) the proteins in vegetables such as sweet potatoes.”
Over boiling, charring, or deep-frying foods can break down or destroy vitamins and nutrients in meats and vegetables. If you want to eat healthier overall, you should avoid doing what is listed down below.
Excess Grease: If there is too much grease in the cooking process, then the food will absorb that extra grease. That extra grease will increase the calorie count of the food.
Charring: It can cause the formation of acrylamides (potential cancer-causing chemicals). This is especially carcinogenic in potatoes.
Overcooking/Boiling: Too much water when boiling your vegetables can cook the nutrients right out of the vegetables. Add that to keeping the lid off a pan and you are letting all of the nutritious parts of the veggies escape.
Healthy Cooking Methods can Enhance Nutrients and Vitamins
Some of these techniques enhance the flavor and nutrients of the food.
A dietician, Sharon Palmer, pointed this out when someone asked about roasting food. ” The fact is that all forms of cooking can destroy some of the nutrients (such as vitamin C and B vitamins) in vegetables. However, some nutrients become more bioavailable when vegetables are cooked. Cooking helps release the nutrients from the cell walls of the plant. These include nutrients in the carotenoid family, such as lycopene (found in tomatoes and red peppers) and beta-carotene (in carrots, spinach, and kale).”
There are other techniques aside from roasting that can enhance the flavor and nutrients of both vegetables and meats.
These techniques include:
- Blanching vegetables. Blanching is a technique in which a food item is lowered into a pot of boiling water for a short time. The short cooking time and the high heat is enough to activate and seal the nutrients with minimal loss.
- Pressure cooking for both meats and vegetables is ideal because the cooking times are shorter and the temperatures are higher.
- Sometimes leaving the veggies raw is a good way to get fiber in your system. It also gives your body access to a lot more vitamins and nutrients that might be lost in the cooking process otherwise.
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