Eating nutritious foods isn't enough to keep you in good health -- you also need to prepare these foods the right way. While no one cooking method is perfect, using a combination of different healthy food preparation methods will help you get the most nutrients from your food while lowering your disease risk.
Avoiding Food-borne Illnesses
Limit your risk for food-borne illnesses by keeping both your hands and your work surfaces clean, separating raw foods and cooked foods and using different utensils and dishes before and after cooking foods. Don't use expired food, and wash fruits and vegetables before you use them. Cook all food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry and seafood, which should be cooked until their juices run clear. Cooked food shouldn't be left out for more than two hours, and frozen food should be thawed out in the refrigerator and not on the counter.
Making Recipes Healthier
Modify recipes that are high in fat, sugar or sodium to make them more nutritious. Use whole grains instead of refined grains, decrease sugar by up to half and replace half of the fat in baked goods with applesauce or pureed fruit. Trim fat off meats and poultry before cooking and use reduced-fat dairy products when preparing main dishes.
Cooking with Minimal Added Fat
Cooking methods that use little or no added fat are healthier than those, like frying, that involve significant added fat. Try steaming, baking, microwaving, roasting, broiling, poaching or grilling your food. Using a non-stick pan helps limit the amount of oil you need, and you can baste your foods with broth, juice or wine instead of oil or drippings. If you do use oil, olive oil is one of the healthiest options, since it is low in saturated fat and high in healthy monounsaturated fat. While stir-frying and sauteing require some added fat, they are better options than frying or deep frying because less oil is used and absorbed by the food.
Maintaining Nutrient Content
Some nutrients, including water-soluble B vitamins, vitamin C and phytochemicals, are easily lost if you use the wrong cooking methods. Nutrients can leach out into the cooking water or be destroyed by high heat. A study published in "The Journal of Zhejiang University Science B" in 2009 found that steaming broccoli resulted in the least nutrient losses, while boiling and stir-frying caused much higher nutrient losses.
Limiting Disease Risk
Using cooking methods that rely on high heat, such as grilling, roasting and baking, may increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease compared to steaming or eating foods raw, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in May 2010. This is partly due to substances called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, produced when using high-heat cooking methods. Using dry heat cooking methods, like baking, to cook animal products results in the highest amount of AGEs, but employing moist heat cooking methods such as steaming, adding acidic liquids like lemon juice and using a shorter cooking time or lower temperatures can decrease the amount of AGEs formed during cooking, according to an article published in "The Journal of the American Dietetic Association" in June 2010.
Written by Jessica Brusso