How to be a Healthy cook?
Acrylamide – the carcinogenic chemical you create when cooking at home
Over cooking your food can cause cancer – we should be aiming for a light golden brown or lighter when grilling, toasting, frying baking or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables or bread.
That there is no smoke without fire is true when it comes to overcooking food, and this surprising killer in our kitchen is causing us to re think our cooking habits – the risk of over cooking is two –fold, many nutrients vitamins and minerals are destroyed by heat but more concerning is the carcinogenic effect of Acrylamide.
So how do we cook without compromising our health?
It is impossible to avoid completely is it useful to know what contains acrylamide.
It can be found in a wide range of foods such as crisps, bread, chips and cakes,
There are no clear guidelines on safe levels so try and reduce where possible as elimination would be nearly impossible
How we store our food before we cook it can affect the levels also – such as you should never store potatoes in the fridge keep them in a dry cool place with a temperature above 6oC
Speed it up-
Microwaving is a fantastic way of cooking where you can, microwaves essential steam your food from the inside out uses a small amount of water which is either added or from within the food itself
Raw vegetables are always the healthier choice, but cooking some gently actually better for you when cooked, Mushrooms, asparagus and broccoli to name a few –but however if you are more likely to eat your veg if they are cooked by all means cook them –Steaming is always the most favourable way of cooking vegetables for example broccoli can lose up to 50% of its vitamin c content when boiled – keep cooking times to a minimum to ensure you retain as much of the goodness as possible.
Grilling, BBQ and Baking
If you are looking to reduce your fat intake this is by far the best methods of cooking – use herbs spices onions or garlic to flavour your foods, Marinades are great for adding flavour and reducing the risks of charring your food particularly when you wheel out the BBQ
With a our busy lifestyles it does seem ironic that slow cooking is a perfect –slow cooking cooks your food slowly throughout the day, but even though it’s a longer cooking time it doesn’t reach the higher temperatures – it is a perfect method for soups stews and casseroles, also any this method ensures any leached nutrients stay in the cooking pot, and there is the benefit that your meal is ready when you return.
Oils which to use?
Try and chose your oils wisely, different oils are good for different things, some are better used in dressing and some for frying and sautéing, when certain oils reach a temperature at which they start to smoke they begin to break down. The higher the smoke point of the oil the better, unrefined oils tend to have a lower smoke point than refined ones – which are better for deep frying and pan frying, both are fine for stir frying as it is a lower heat. Extra virgin coconut oil is also good for frying as it also has a high smoke point. Avocado oil has a high anti oxidant levels and helps the body to absorb nutrients from the food cooked in it.
Also be aware of the fats, small amounts of trans-fats which raise cholesterol can form when using vegetable oils, the NHS tells us to swap saturated fat for unsaturated, but this is too simplistic - certain oils produce large levels of Aldehyde a chemical linked to dementia, heart disease and cancer, generally oils with less unsaturated fatty acid and a higher saturated fat content produces less Aldehyde
Time it right
Don’t ignore the cooking times on food labels, they are there for a reason, they ensure your food is cooked to a level that is safe for consumption, but not in high temperatures for too long, so be more conscious of your cooking times when it comes to combining ingredients, always start with the ingredients that will take longer to cook, quick vegetables like courgettes or asparagus can take only take 10 mins where as carrots and cauliflower will take longer.