When Cooking Mistakes Neutralize Healthy Foods

by Yoshita Sengupta
Alright, we get it—you’ve officially gone over to the healthy side. Now, you’re totally excited and are most likely stuffing your shopping cart with all the healthy food groups. And while that’s a great first step to securing your health, are you sure you’re ingesting all those nutrients you’re shopping for?

Let’s get real—you’re really not keeping track or ensuring that all of the nutrients make it to your plate, are you? Besides, you might think that by boiling, sautéing, grilling or steaming, you’re cooking a perfectly healthy, nutritious meal. The fact remains, how you cook your food determines how much of the original vitamins and minerals make it to your body.

You may be reading up on the nutritional values of fruit, vegetables and nuts. For example, dry fruits like raw nuts are a sure way to improving the healthy lining of arteries. However, did you know that when nuts are roasted at temperatures higher than 170 degrees, disease-fighting fats get broken down? If nuts are heated beyond this limit, they end up increasing your chances of plaque and cardiovascular disease. This is just one example of how cooking can reverse the effects of otherwise healthy foods.

Matthew Robinson, Chef, Nutritional Food Scientist, and Author of The Culinary Exchange, explains how to cook vegetables enough to kill pathogens and preserve nutritional goodness.

Cooking Faux Pas
What does it mean to cook incorrectly? When it comes to nutrients, in some cases, cooking incorrectly means over-cooking. When you cook, you have to make sure the minerals (calcium, magnesium iron, etc.), carbohydrates (starches and fibers), proteins, and fats are not destroyed.

Vitamin Values
Vitamins can be affected by heat, resulting in some loss of key nutrients. Good bacteria, like that found in yogurt or kefir, are destroyed when cooked (the benefits of ingesting these can be debated). The enzymes in foods are not heat stable, and the benefits of ingesting these enzymes is also debatable.

Don’t Turn Up The Heat
Heat is necessary, but some cooking techniques are better than others. Take, for example, boiling. When it comes to nutritional values, boiling is an issue for water soluble nutrients like vitamins C and potassium considering water will leach out the nutrients. A nutritionally-sound cooking alternative would to steam your vegetables.

Out Of The Frying Pan & Into The Fire
Deep frying can also render food hollow in nutrition. When foods are fried, there is oxidized fat. Oxidized fats are not good for us because they have been linked to cancer. So when we fry vegetables, although we might be helping to release some nutrients, the oxidized fat in the oil does not help.

The Raw Truth
While cooking foods might destroy the nutrients, you don’t have to join the raw food brigade to tap into those vitamins. Cooking is one of the most important processes for releasing nutrients. When vegetables are cooked cell walls are broken making nutrients more available to the body. This does come with exceptions. For example, onions are packed with sulfur compounds and cancer-fighting antioxidants. But this changes when the temperamental vegetable comes in contact with heat. Onions are unstable in their chemical composition. When they are fried, fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E are destroyed. Moreover, when onions are cooked in oil, they produce carcinogens. We bet you’re not so keen on that order onion rings.

It is important to note which vegetables are better eaten when raw or cooked. The bottomline is, you need to get in a good mix of fruit and vegetables, and it does not matter if you eat them cooked or raw—either way, a total of five fruits and vegetables need to be part of your daily diet!
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