How you cook your food can maximise its health benefits

All the best nutritional advice won’t stop you cooking the life out of your food.

You’re cooking your food wrong

There’s a lot of talk about eating organic fruits and veg and maintaining a healthy diet with all the major food groups served in appropriate measure. And though you may be following all this sound nutritional advice, the way you’re cooking your food could quickly eliminate any of the health benefits.

Food is the most important thing we put into our bodies, so preparing it well is not only nutritionally important but, by increasing the health benefits and minimising doctor’s visits, it will also save you money in the long run.

So, here are the basics on cooking your food for maximum nutritional value.

1. Raw
Let’s start with food in its natural form – raw. Eating your food raw has the most nutritional benefit, as it retains all its nutrients and fibre, whether it be veggies, nuts, seeds, oils, even fish. Some people don’t have the constitution for raw food, so blending, juicing or lightly steaming is best for them.

And for those who like to eat meat on the rarer side, make sure you cook your steak enough to destroy any harmful bacteria.

2. Baking
Baking is much better than frying, as long as you use the right oil, because some oils become rancid at high temperatures. Coconut oil is best, but whatever oil you choose, it’s best to bake slower at lower temperatures to ensure you don’t burn the life out of your food.

3. Stewing
Another slow-cooking option that’s ideal for colder weather, stewing uses the food’s own juices to soften and retain nutrients. Simply pop your ingredients and stock into a slow cooker and cook on uber-low heat so your meal is ready at the end of the day. 

4. Steaming
It’s a healthy way to cook vegetables, but some of the nutrients do leach into the water. So, use as little water as possible to do your steaming, then keep it and use as veggie stock or as gravy for your meal.

5. Boil
The same principle in steaming applies to boiling. A lot of nutrients will stay in the liquid, so once you’re done with the cooking, pour the water into a glass jar and save for soup or stock.

6. Pan-frying
As long as you use the right oils in the right amounts, pan-frying can still be healthy, convenient and quick. Go for coconut, olive and sesame oils (or ghee) and cook on lower heat, if possible.

7. Deep-frying
This is easily the unhealthiest cooking option, as high heat and unstable oil can be very harmful to your health. While deep-frying will destroy most fat-soluble vitamins, some mineral and nutritional value can be retained when frying in short times at high temperatures. If you do have to deep-fry, use peanut oil, vegetable oil or rice bran oil.

8. Using the BBQ
While this method of cooking can be carcinogenic, barbecuing your food once in a while is okay, as long as you don’t char your meat, as the carcinogens will build up in your body over time and cause you harm. Cook quickly and on high heat, using canola, olive or vegetable oil.

10. Freeze-dried food
This is the second-best way to retain the nutrients in your food. Look for fresh, freeze dried berries and fruits in your supermarket freezer, and don’t be afraid of using frozen veggies when you don’t have time to prepare fresh ones.

11. Microwaving
While cooking in a microwave has been a source of controversy, science shows that microwaving your food compares with other cooking methods when it comes to retaining nutrients. But you should consider using your cooktop first, as low-dose radiation exposure can compound over a lifetime.

12. Blending
Using your blender for smoothies is a quick and easy way to consume most of the fibre and nutrients of raw foods. But if you have the time, eating these same foods in their raw, unblended state will do you more good over time.

13. Juicing
If you do go for juice, try to maintain as much of the pulp as possible, as most juicing methods filter out the fibre content – and therefore nutritional value – making your food much less effective.

Read more at Huff Post.

What’s your preferred cooking method? Do you place the nutritional value of your food over taste and texture? Do you have any cooking tips for our members?

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    COMMENTS

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    Con
    6th Jun 2018
    9:58am
    THANK YOU FOR THIS HELPFUL COLUMN. I ALWAYS ENJOY LEON’S COLUMNS AS THEY COVER MANY OF THE AREAS THAT ARE IMPORTANT AT THIS STAGE OF MY LIFE. HIS TRAVEL ADVICE IS WISE. I AM NOT A GREAT COOK BUT I ENJOYGOOD HEALTHY FOOD SO I AM STILL LEARNING ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING THOUGH THESE COLUMNS. THANK YOU!
    Paulo
    6th Jun 2018
    10:22am
    Once again Leon shoots from the lips! There is no evidence that microwave ovens produce ionising radiation and therefore there cannot be a build up of low dose radiation from eating food cooked in a microwave. Please research your facts
    Leon and get it right.
    Sen.Cit.90
    6th Jun 2018
    11:10am
    Thanks, Paulo,
    Living alone and fending for myself, 99% of my food is cooked in the microwave and fry pan. Practically all my vegetables start out as bought frozen and the meats bought fresh and frozen by me. This has been the norm for the past 20 years + at age 89 most of my major illnesses were before this trend.
    Ausdigga
    6th Jun 2018
    11:14am
    Before pushing the benefits of 'vegetable 'oil in cooking please check on the industrial processes it undergoes through .
    KSS
    6th Jun 2018
    2:02pm
    And not all vegetable oils are good for cooking at high temperatures as they morph into trans fats which are by far the worst kind of fat to ingest.
    cupoftea
    6th Jun 2018
    12:13pm
    I have a microwave which I use for frozen vegies etc but I have now got an air fryer cooked frozen chips and fresh spuds no oil turned out great very pleased
    KSS
    6th Jun 2018
    2:01pm
    "Eating your food raw has the most nutritional benefit,"

    Well this is not strictly true and in some cases absolutely wrong. The lectins in raw beans for example are highly toxic. Raw lima beans contain linamarin, which when consumed decomposes into the toxic chemical hydrogen cyanide.

    Tomatoes are more beneficial cooked as the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer is increased. Carotenoids, such as the beta carotene in carrots, are more readily available when vegetables are cooked or processed such as chopped or puréed.

    There are many more examples of where the nutritional value of cooked foods is increased or made more bioavailable to the body.

    Rather than promoting 'raw food diet' it would be more accurate to suggest a mix of both raw and cooked foods as the optimum food plan.
    Triss
    7th Jun 2018
    2:40pm
    Not all vegetables are better eaten raw some vegetables are better cooked. Beta-carotene in raw carrots is not absorbed well so needs cooking with fat.
    Cooking tomatoes releases the antioxidant lycopene which has been linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.
    Spinach contains folate, an essential B vitamin, and steaming it, rather than eating it raw, helps to keep the folate level balanced.
    Cooking mushrooms increases the potassium level.


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