Every time you cook, you have a choice of preparation methods. Some methods are healthier than others. The choices you make when cooking influence the total calories in the meal and the nutritional benefits, and these choices can affect your health. Switching from unhealthy to healthy cooking methods is an easy, beneficial change to make.
Obesity and heart disease are just two factors to consider when choosing how to prepare your foods or when requesting certain cooking method for foods you eat in a restaurant. Obesity affects about 72 million adults, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, a study published in the July 2007 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” examined whether fried food contributes to obesity. The researchers found that the more calories the participants ate from fried foods, the more likely they were to be overweight and have a larger waist measurement. Preparing food healthfully allows you to eat less unhealthy fats and control your calories, thus potentially reducing your risk of heart disease.
Unhealthy Cooking Methods
Healthy food like vegetables, fruits and lean meats can become an unhealthy choice depending on how you cook the food. Frying in oil allows the food to soak up the oil during the cooking process, adding calories and fat. A baked potato has 161 calories and less than 1 g of fat, while one medium serving of restaurant French fries may contain 453 calories and 23 g of fat. Drenching vegetables in butter or adding butter to baked or grilled meats adds unnecessary calories and saturated fat. A diet high in trans fat, saturated fats and sodium can increase your stroke risk, contribute to coronary heart disease and increase your blood pressure. Although boiling vegetables in water does not add fats, it causes some of the healthy nutrients to leach into the water. When you drain the vegetables before eating them, you lose some of the nutrients.
Healthy Cooking Methods
Steaming, roasting, baking, stir-frying, microwaving and occasional grilling are examples of healthy cooking methods. You can bake or roast in your oven by using a lower temperature for baking and a higher temperature for roasting. Cover the food when baking to preserve moisture, and brush healthy olive or canola oil on vegetables or seafood before roasting. Steam vegetables or seafood on your cook top over plain or herb-infused water until done. If you stir-fry vegetables or meats, use 1 tsp. of oil per two servings. The high heat cooks the food rapidly, limiting the absorption of oil while retaining the color and nutrients. Use glass containers in your microwave to steam vegetables or seafood.
Plan your meals in advance to give yourself the time to bake meats rather than fry them in oil. If you grill your meat or vegetables, avoid charring to avoid the carcinogens that may develop on charred food, recommends the National Cancer Institute. Instead of automatically adding butter and salt to vegetables, or sugar to fruit, use herbs for vegetables and learn to eat fruit plain.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Vital Signs: State-Specific Obesity Prevalence Among Adults – United States, 2009; B. Sherry et al.; August 2010
- “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Intake of Fried Foods Is Associated With Obesity in the Cohort of Spanish Adults From the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition; P. Guallar-Castillon et al.; July 2007
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Wendy’s, French Fries, Medium and Baked Potato, Medium
- National Institutes of Health: What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Menu Planning; May 2005
- National Cancer Institute; Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk; October 2010