What About Food Prep Methods?
There is a lot of talk about food preparation methods and the preservation, or loss, of nutritional value depending on which method you use. Let’s take a look at some popular food preparation methods to understand better what happens to nutrients in food when you choose them and/or how each method might affect your health.
- Frying Fried food is possibly the worst cooking method. Its inherent fat content is made worse when it is breaded or battered before frying because it tends to absorb more oil. The high heat necessary to fry foods destroys most of the nutritional value, even though many of us love the taste! Frying also produces hydrocarbons – toxins known to cause cancer. Limit your use of this method to once in a blue moon!
- Grilling This food preparation method is the least desirable in terms of your health and nutritional value. Although it might be difficult to resist grilled fish, chicken, a juicy burger or lean steak, grilling also creates hydrocarbons, which can cause in the long-term. Grilling leaner cuts of meat, marinating, using lower grilling temperatures, avoiding over cooking and preventing “flare-ups” all reduce the amount of hydrocarbons produced. Still, use this method only occasionally.
- Microwave There has been a lot of talk about microwaving food, with good reason! Zapping your food saps vital nutrients, which is especially harmful when you choose to heat infant formula or breast milk this way. The container you use to microwave your food can also have an effect – plastics can emit harmful toxins into foods that create serious health risks. There are many health effects (microwaved food-induced conditions) that are starting to receive some notice as well. Reserve microwave use for reheating foods only.
- Roasting Roasting food involves cooking it in its own juices at a constant, even temperature. Heat applied to the food, in a gas or electric oven, chars the outer surface, preventing the juices from escaping. This method of cooking retains the food’s mineral content, but it destroys vitamins.
- Boiling Boiling vegetables for short periods of time preserves nutrients and flavor. It is best to put vegetables into water that has already been boiled. The reason for this? The longer you cook vegetables, the more you lose the vitamins and minerals that make vegetables so good for your health! Many nutrients are left in the boiled water – so try to use that liquid in a recipe or for other purposes, such as soups.
- Steaming We saved the best for last! Steaming minimizes water contact, so foods retain much of their nutritional value. Place foods in a container above the boiling water – not in the microwave. Steaming is the best way to retain the greatest percentage of vitamins and minerals.
Eating raw fruits and vegetable each day is ideal, but keep in mind that if kept in your refrigerator for too long, they also start to lose their nutritional value because of light and air exposure. It’s best to buy whatever is in season where you live and to buy the freshest produce possible. Frozen fruits and vegetables also retain a high percentage of their nutritional value because they are frozen within days of harvest, before losing vital nutrients.