How and if you cook your food can be just as important as how you select it, since even the healthiest ingredients can be reduced in quality through improper kitchen practices. Eating whole foods like nuts, pulses, beans etc is always healthy and nutritious provided you are taking them in the right quantity and preparing them the right way. The biggest problems are overcooking, using too-high heat, and overheating certain types of oils. Following are some guidelines that can help make your work in the kitchen become a work of health.
The worst method for cooking anything is deep-fat or high-heat frying, especially using vegetable oils. While many healthy foods may be lightly sautéed in butter or olive oil, deep-frying overheats the oil and can be deadly. In addition, the high heat may destroy other nutrients in the food itself. Meats, fish and poultry can be grilled, roasted or cooked in their own juices with sea salt.
Tips for healthy cooking in details
Less oil or butter is needed for pan-cooking meats because they often contain sufficient fats. Additionally, most people overcook meats and destroy some of the valuable nutrients. It’s also important to not use too-high heat for too long. For instance when grilling a steak, remember to turn it every minute or so to prevent the excess formation of chemicals that can be harmful to your health.
This goes for vegetables as well — if using high heat, turn them often. Vegetables can be steamed, stir-fried in olive oil, roasted, baked or grilled. Cook vegetables minimally to avoid destroying vitamins and phytonutrients — they also taste better when not overcooked.
If boiling or steaming, use as little water as possible to avoid leaching of nutrients. Eggs can be soft- or hard-boiled, or cooked sunny-side up, over easy, poached or lightly scrambled. Use low heat to avoid “tough” or rubbery eggs. If using oils for cooking it’s important to remember that all oils contain varying ratios of monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated and saturated fats are not sensitive to heat, but polyunsaturated oils are very prone to oxidizing when exposed to heat. This oxidation produces free radicals, which are related to many health problems. Butter is one of the safest oils for cooking, as it contains a low amount of polyunsaturated fat.
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Olive oil can also be used for cooking but its polyunsaturated content is a little higher. Another fat you may consider for cooking is coconut oil. In addition, try lard, which contrary to popular belief may be a healthier choice for cooking than butter.