Health & Wellness , Diet & Nutrition
Steaming and boiling are among the healthiest methods
Eating nutritious foods is definitely a key component of a healthy lifestyle, but another important part of the equation is how to cook them as this can also have an impact on our health.
“Research shows that certain cooking methods may change the makeup of our food in ways that could potentially harm our health,” Dr Donald Hensrud, associate professor of nutrition and preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, told Health.
For example, some research suggests consuming excessive amounts of meat cooked at high temperature could increase cancer risk due to the formation of the chemicals heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). “Grilling meat forms HCAs and PAHs that may cause changes to DNA in
the body that might lead to cancer, Dr Paolo Boffetta, associate director of the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Health.
Similarly, deep frying or cooking meat or fish to well- done or browned can produce potential carcinogens on foods. For instance, French fries and potato chips, as well as bread roasted too dark, can carry acrylamide, a substance considered a probable contributor to cancer.
This doesn’t mean you should never enjoy some fried foods but should be mindful of the risks and avoid excessive amounts. “There’s a lot we still don’t fully understand, but we do know that some methods are better to use regularly and some are better saved for special occasions,” said Dr Hensrud.
Some alternative cooking methods that avoid the production of such cancer-linked chemicals and can then provide healthier meals include steaming and boiling, which achieve that by using lower temperatures. In addition, they lead to healthier foods by cutting out extra fat because they don’t require the use of oils or butter.
When it comes to cooking vegetables, the best approach is steaming because it keeps them as nutritious as possible. “Boiling can cause water-soluble nutrients — like vitamins B and C — to leach out into the water, but they’re retained with steaming,” Lauren Slayton, founder of the nutrition consulting centre Foodtrainers, told Health. One way to avoid losing those nutrients as much as possible is to drink the cooking liquid that contains them.
“Boiling can cause water-soluble nutrients — like vitamins B and C — to leach out into the water, but they’re retained with steaming.”
Short microwaving is another method that may help retain important nutrients like flavonoids (compounds associated with reduced risk of heart disease) as demonstrated by one study done on broccoli cooked for one minute. “Under the cooking conditions used in this study, microwaving appeared to be a better way to preserve flavonoids than steaming,” study authors wrote in Heliyon.
However, it isn’t clear why microwaving is able to retain more nutrients or whether this would apply to vegetables other than broccoli. “Though in general microwaving is a preferred method, the optimum time will be different for different vegetables,” lead researcher Dr Xianli Wu, a scientist at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center at the US Department of Agriculture, told the BBC. “When considering commonly used domestic cooking methods, microwaving is a preferred cooking method, at least for many plant foods, but probably not for every plant food.”
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