How You Cook Your Food May Be As Important as What You Eat

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • How you prepare a food may be just as important as what the food is. That’s the message that Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz, authors of the You books, wanted to get across in their article, “How to Eat to Stop Aging”, in the Houston Chronicle. And it’s important to think about as the weather gets pretty and you start thinking about firing up your grill.

    The medical pair noted that some food preparations cause advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which age arteries and cause other heart troubles. AGEs are created by high-temperature cooking as well as how proteins and sugars interact in your blood stream. “Most of us eats three times more AGEs every day than our bodies can handle,” the medical doctors reported. “That’s because AGES give fried, grilled, roasted and crispy-baked foods such as meat, French fries and snack foods their delicious caramelized flavor and satisfying crunch.”

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    Eating a diet high in AGES can have an impact on your health, including stiff joints, cataracts, and Alzheimer’s disease. To avoid AGEs, you should consider boiling, poaching, stewing, steaming, or making soup. By using these methods, you can reduce the AGEs levels by 50% over foods that you would roast, fry, broil, or grill.

    The doctors also recommend eating moderate amounts of plant-based fats, such as nuts, nut butters, avocadoes, olive oil and canola oil. Additionally, a bowl of oatmeal or whole grain toast will have significantly fewer AGEs than crunchy cereals.

    I previously wrote about AGEs in a 2008 Alzheimer’s blog. I had been reading an issue of Body+Soul magazine, which had an article that explained that grilling "has been shown to create chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which appear to increase the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic diseases." That article suggested that overcooking fats and oils may result in toxins.

    The Body+Soul article encouraged cooks to use baking, steaming, stir-frying and sautéing. Other cooking methods, such as boiling, broiling, microwaving, and grilling, have mixed results, depending on the type of food and the preparation method (whether you use a marinade, etc.). The article also warned against deep-frying and pan-frying since these methods of cooking cause unhealthy changes in some foods.

    So if you’re a novice cook, what do these terms mean? I went to the Mayo Clinic site and found the following information:

    -    Baking – “Besides breads and desserts, you can bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, vegetables and fruits. For baking, place food in a pan or dish surrounded by the hot, dry air of your oven. You may cook the food covered or uncovered. Baking generally doesn't require that you add fat to the food.”

    -    Steaming – “One of the simplest cooking techniques is steaming food in a perforated basket suspended above simmering liquid. If you use a flavorful liquid or add seasonings to the water, you'll flavor the food as it cooks.”

  • -    Stir-frying – “A traditional Asian method, stir-frying quickly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of food while they're rapidly stirred in a wok or large nonstick frying pan. You need only a small amount of oil or cooking spray for this cooking method.”

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    -    Sautéing – “Sautéing quickly cooks relatively small or thin pieces of food. If you choose a good-quality nonstick pan, you can cook food without using fat. Depending on the recipe, use low-sodium broth, cooking spray or water in place of oil.”    

    Although I love to have a grilled steak on occasion, I am trying to incorporate more of these recommended preparation methods into my repertoire. For instance, I recently made a dinner by baking fish, vegetables, herbs and a splash of white wine in a packet of parchment paper. Opening the parchment paper was like opening a gift and the food smelled (and tasted) delicious. That easy – and healthy – entrée will be on my menu again really soon!


Published On: April 06, 2010