These days we hear a lot about what we should be eating. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, Mediterranean, DASH diet — all of these terms are probably familiar to most of us.
But what about HOW food is cooked? This doesn't get as much attention, but there has been some fascinating research done on what cooking methods are the healthiest.
Research on cooking methods has tended to focus on how to preserve or optimize the nutrition in our food, and also how to prevent the formation of hazardous by-products that have been linked to cancer. Here are five food preparation strategies that support good health:
- Avoid high-heat cooking — Grilling, roasting, frying, and baking at high temperatures are not the healthiest way to prepare foods. Muscle meats that are cooked too long or at high temperatures produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which are linked to cancer. High temperatures also produce potential carcinogens (acrylamide) in plant foods, particularly those higher in starch, like french fries. When you see char-grilled meats or burnt toast, those are indicators that these kinds of reactions have taken place.
- Choose cooking methods that keep the temperature below 248 degrees Fahrenheit. - Since the 248 degree mark seems to be the point at which carcinogenic compounds are produced, try cooking lower and slower. Steaming, poaching, braising, simmering, boiling, and slow-cooking are all safer alternatives.
- If you use a microwave, don't cook in plastic - Plastics can leach out into food. They contains chemicals that can mimic the hormone estrogen, and that can disrupt your body's endocrine system or cause cancer. So, it is important to avoid plastic when cooking with microwaves. Some wellness experts, like Dr. Joseph Mercola, recommend avoiding using microwaves altogether. While that is still controversial, it is interesting to note that microwaves alter the chemical properties and structure of water.
- Include some, but not all raw food — Raw food preserves many nutrients and fiber that are important for our health, but they should be only part of a healthy diet. There are some foods that are healthier when cooked, so include both in your food plan.
- Include fermented foods - Fermented foods support a healthy microbiome. Microbes help us digest foods, reduce inflammation and even help our mental health.
What about you? Which are some of your favorite healthy food preparation methods? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!