Thursday, July 28, 2011

Healthy Cooking Tips (Part 1)

This day and age, when fast food chains and instant foods are widespread, it is not enough that we eat a balanced meal in order to achieve a healthy diet and a healthier you.  Though food selection is important, it is not enough that we simply purchase foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, complex proteins, fiber and low in saturated fats.  Food preparation is equally imperative.  Food must be free from harmful additives, and it must be prepared in a way that it preserves its nutrients and avoids the occurrence of harmful substances.

Here are some basic guidelines that I would like to share to you for preparing and cooking foods the healthy way:

Avoid foods that contain additives and artificial ingredients – Additives are placed in foods for several reasons: to lengthen shelf life; to make a food more appealing by enhancing color, texture, or taste, and even make the product more marketable.  Anyone whose diet is high in processed food products clearly consumes a high amount of additives and artificial ingredients.  Additives and artificial ingredients simply add little or no nutritional value to a food product.  Some additives could even pose a threat to our health.

Increase your consumption of raw produce or steam or lightly cooked vegetables – The most healthful fruits and vegetables are those that have been grown organically, which means they are free from insecticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, or growth-stimulating chemicals.  When choosing your produce, I learned to look for fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of ripeness.  These contain more vitamins and enzymes than those that are under ripe or overripe, or those kept in storage for a long period of time.  Although most people usually cook their vegetables before eating, both fruits and vegetables should be eaten raw, if possible.  But since organic fruits and vegetables are not widely sold in markets and grocery stores in the country, most people buy the commercially-available fruits and vegetables.  If that is the case, clean and wash well the raw produce, and steam your vegetables lightly in a steamer or cooking pan or wok, or cook it until slightly tender.

Avoid overcooking your food – Overcooking destroys many valuable nutrients.  Worse, when foods are cooked to the point of browning or charring, the organic compounds they contain undergo changes in structure, producing carcinogens.  Barbecued meats seem to pose the worst health threat in this regard.  Even browned or burned bread crusts contain a variety of carcinogenic substances.  Clearly, by eating produce raw or lightly cooked, and limiting consumption of meat, you will be doing much to decrease your risk of cancer and, possibly, other disorders.

Use the proper cooking utensils – One of the ways to ensure wholesome cooked food is the careful selection of cookware.  When cooking foods, use only glass, stainless steel, or iron pots and pans.  Do not use aluminum cookware or utensils.  Foods cooked or stored in aluminum produce a substance that neutralizes the digestive juices, leading to acidosis and ulcers.  Worse, the aluminum in the cookware can leach from the pot into the food.  When the food is consumed, the aluminum is absorbed by the body, where it accumulates in the brain and nervous system tissues.  Excessive amounts of these aluminum deposits have been linked to be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.  Another cookware type to be avoided is the one with non-stick coating.  Too often, the metals and other substances in the pot’s or pan’s finish leaches into the food, which ultimately ends up in your body.

Watch out for more healthy cooking tips!

Phyllis A. Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Avery Publishing, 2006.

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