Choosing healthy food can be challenging, especially since so much information about the health repercussions of certain foods and cooking techniques is easily accessible via the Internet. Deciding which types of food or cooking methods are better or worse depends on many factors, including what diseases or health conditions you might have. Consult a nutritionist about more natural food choices and how best to prepare them.
Fried food, such as chicken and fish, certainly smells and tastes good to most people, but many oils used to fry food are harmful to your health. Fried food is often cooked in vegetable oils high in trans fatty acids, which are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, most vegetable oils, such as canola oil, sunflower oil, linseed oil and even olive oil, produce toxic aldehydes when they are heated to high temperatures. Aldehydes result from the degradation of the fatty acids and can negatively react with proteins, hormones and enzymes in your body. Overall, flaxseed oil and coconut oil are the least harmful vegetable oils to use for frying. Slowly sauteing food in a fry pan with butter is a healthier alternative, although butter is high in saturated fat.
Refined food is any type of food that is heavily processed to last longer on shelves. Some examples include pasta sauce, salad dressing, canned soup and frozen pizza. In most instances, the texture, color and taste of refined foods are manipulated to be more appealing to consumers. In other words, refined food is made to be profitable, not necessarily nutritious, according to “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach.” Refined foods typically have either a lot of refined sugar or salt added because those taste sensations are most excitatory. Furthermore, refined food often contains a variety of chemical additives for preservation, color and taste, as well as hydrogenated fats. Vitamins and minerals are sometimes added to refined foods, but most refined products are high in calories and low in beneficial nutrients. Without question, refined food is much worse for you than fresh, natural alternatives.
Baking certain foods such as fish, potatoes and vegetables is a much healthier alternative than frying them. Baking food doesn’t require cooking oils or batter, so it’s a good, low-fat cooking technique. Not all baked food is healthy, however, as most cakes, cookies, muffins and desserts are heavily refined products. Baked food is only as nutritious as the ingredients you use. However, baking various foods at high temperatures can destroy certain nutrients, especially vitamins C and E.
Sweets are a broad classification of foods that include both healthy and unhealthy examples. Sweet foods made with natural sweeteners, such as honey, agave syrup, stevia, molasses and maple syrup, aren’t as harmful for your body and don’t spike blood glucose and insulin levels too high if eaten in small amounts. Other sweets, such as milk chocolate, hard candy and most store-bought baked goods, are highly refined and typically made with powdered sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, which are all much worse for your body than natural sweeteners. High-fructose corn syrup triggers large insulin releases, which seems to promote type-2 diabetes, whereas artificial sweeteners metabolize into compounds that are damaging to nerve tissue.
To determine which general type of food or cooking technique is worse for you, it may be better to consider common conditions. If you are obese or have heart disease, you should avoid heavily refined foods, fried foods and sweets made from refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you have diabetes, refined foods and sweets are worse and should be eliminated. Ask you doctor which foods or methods of cooking are worse for your particular condition.
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
- Nutritional Sciences for Human Health; Stanislas Berger et al.