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How Cooking Techniques Affect Nutrition & Weight Loss

Here is the fact, and let’s face it – Most (say 90 percent) foods are unhealthy – not because of its content, but the way it is cooked or the cooking techniques used to prepare the food. The chicken used in KFC, for example, is not bad, but the method (frying) used to cook it makes it very unhealthy. It is proven beyond doubt that cooking food to extremely high levels of light, heat, and oxygen can reduce or even remove all the nutrients from your food.

It is necessary to know how specific cooking techniques impact the nutritional value of the food we eat and affect our weight loss.

How does cooking technique affect nutrition and weight loss?

Food preparation, as such, decreases the nutrients in the food. Various cooking techniques cause the nutrients to be ‘washed out.’ This applies to fast foods prepared at restaurants and many of the foods we prepare at home. Our method of cooking is influenced by the taste and also by what we have been taught by our parents. If you boil a potato, for example, you will cause the water to absorb much of the potato’s vitamin B and C. If the water is used to prepare the dish, you can retain some of the essential vitamins of the potatoes. If, on the other hand, you discard the water, all those high powered nutrients will be lost.

You can prepare delicious food in a healthy way to retain the nutrients and also keep you healthy and fit. The way you cook your food and all that you add in your recipe can land-up right on your buttock or thighs if you are not careful! Most often than not, we end up removing all the essential nutrients from our food and adding loads of extra calories without realizing it. You must be aware of what and how you are cooking so that you can obtain the maximum benefit from every food that you eat.

Seven ways in which cooking techniques affect nutrition

Cooking can cause the loss of essential water-soluble vitamins like thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), folic acid (B9), cobalamin (B12), pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3). Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are also lost, and so is the case with minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Here are the seven ways you cook that reduce the nutritional content in your food:

1. Boiling, simmering, and poaching

Boiling, simmering, and even poaching are termed as water-based cooking techniques. While the average temperature of poaching is less than 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), the temperature for simmering food is at 185 – 200 degrees Fahrenheit (85 – 93 degrees Celsius) and boiling is at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).

Boiling dry and starchy ingredients, such as rice, grains, and pasta, enable you to make sure that they don’t stick to each other. Boiling also helps kill harmful bacteria. Prolonged boiling, however, can damage the nutrients and also the underlying flavor inside the ingredients.

Similarly, vegetables are rich in nutrients and a great source of vitamin C. A large amount of this vitamin, however, is lost when they are boiled and cooked in water. Vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, and spinach lose up to at least 50 percent of vitamin C when boiled. Vitamin B too, like vitamin C, is sensitive to heat and loses up to 60% of niacin, thiamine, and many other B vitamins when you simmer meat and make the juices run-off. You can avoid the loss of nutrients by drinking or consuming these juices, as that will save 100 percent of the minerals and 70 – 90 percent of vitamin B.

Boiling fish, on the other hand, is proven to significantly conserve omega-3 fatty acid content in comparison to microwaving and frying.

2. Steaming

Steaming is good in the sense that it needs little or absolutely no fat to cook the food and keep it moist. Steaming also maintains the water-soluble B vitamins and retains the nutrients, color, and flavor since the food does not touch the water like the B vitamins. Steaming, however, requires a higher temperature when compared to boiling, which is not good.

Unlike sautéing and roasting, steaming does not add any flavor to the food. It only brings out the underlying flavors within the vegetables, even if the liquid used while steaming has immense flavor. Steaming causes food to lose fewer nutrients as compared to other cooking techniques.

3. Microwaving

While some say that microwaving food is the best way to retain nutrients, many researchers suggest otherwise. Studies conducted by Dr. Mercola reveal that microwaving leads to alteration of the chemical structure of a protein, thereby destroying most of the nutrients in the food. The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture showed that broccoli cooked in a microwave with little water caused it to lose 90 percent of its beneficial antioxidants.

Further, even though microwaving caused a decrease in glucosinolates and phenolic compounds, mineral levels remained as it is. A Scandinavian study in 1999 found that asparagus spears cooked in a microwave lost a significant portion of vitamin C.

Researches have found many disastrous results for microwaving. Heating garlic for only 60 seconds in a microwave caused it to lose its alliinase, which is the prime ingredient that helps fight cancer. In yet another study conducted in Japan, it was found that heating milk for only six minutes in a microwave changed nearly 40 percent of the B12 in milk into a dead or inert form.

The loss of nutrients while microwaving is proven again in a recent Australian study that showed that the degree of “protein unfolding” in food is much higher when heated in the microwave as compared to conventional or traditional heating.

You must also reconsider heating breast milk in a microwave, as studies reveal that microwaving breast milk can kill disease-fighting agents in the milk that act as a shield and protects your baby. Researcher Quan, in 1992, found that milk that was heated in a microwave lost antibodies and its lysozyme activity, thereby increasing the possibility of more harmful pathogenic bacteria.

4. Baking

The temperature needed for baking is much higher when compared to boiling and steaming. Baking destroys the vitamins in the food, particularly vitamin C and thiamine, since they get very unstable when heated. Similarly, when food is cooked by adding water in the baking dish, the process of cooking happens through a mix of boiling and baking, which again leads to loss of nutrients. One way to reduce the loss of nutrients is to bake the vegetables without peeling their skin.

Baking has its advantages as well. It destroys unhealthy microorganisms in foods, thereby enhancing the nutritional content of the food. It further makes the proteins in egg and meat easier to absorb. Baking also increases the vitamin B amount when it comes to grain-based products.

Baking for a long and extended time at a high temperature will most certainly destroy the nutrients, and hence it is advised to opt for boiling or steaming fruits and vegetables. Choose baking only for meat and grain-based recipes.

5. Frying

Frying is the least healthy cooking method of all the cooking techniques, as it destroys a lot of nutrients due to its extremely high temperatures. The peeling and cutting of the ingredients to fry exposes them to oxidation, thereby causing a significant loss of nutrients. While adding little oil to food helps protect some nutrients, it also adds calories and creates free radicals, and that is more the case when the temperature goes above 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).

Fried foods absorb more fat and have a higher energy density. The body hence finds it more difficult to digest fried foods in comparison to grilled foods. It is, therefore, always a good idea to grill food to keep it lighter.

In another interesting find, it was revealed that potatoes, due to the creation of resistant starch, develop more dietary fiber when fried.

6. Peeling skin

The skin of root vegetables is extremely nutritious. A lot of nutrition, such as vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid, is lost when we peel the skin of the vegetables. The skin of the apple, for instance, is rich in fiber, and peeling its skin deprives us of vitamin C and all its nutritional fiber. It is, hence, suggested that you wash and clean the vegetables as much as you can and eat it without peeling its skin. You could peel off a thin layer of the vegetable or fruit if you have to for some reason.

7. Chopping vegetables

You will be surprised to know that vegetables lose a little bit of their nutritional value if they are chopped and cut before you choose to roast, steam, boil or fry them. It would hence be a better idea to cook the vegetables with a foil pack as that enables the vegetables to retain a lot of moisture.

Seven ways in which cooking techniques affects weight loss

The way you cook or prepare your recipe will most certainly influence your weight loss. There are various techniques to prepare delicious food without adding a lot of extras.

Listed below are seven ways how your cooking techniques can affect your weight loss:

1. Frying, stewing, and parching

It is necessary to have a clear knowledge of which food and what cooking techniques can remove the essential nutrients from your diet and cause you to put on excess weight. Fried, roasted, and stewed foods take off important minerals like calcium, manganese, and potassium, as per the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology study.

Fried foods, in particular, increase the saturated fat and calories in your food, thereby making it difficult for you to keep track of your diet. It is hence advisable to steam the chicken or fish that you just bought with delicious tasting spices.

2. Boiled, blanched, and steamed vegetables

Vegetables can taste delicious, even if they are not fried or cooked with excess oil. If you want a nutritious diet low in calories, you must fill your stomach with a lot of green vegetables. The way you cook these vegetables will decide how fit and healthy you will be.

Cook the vegetables as little as you can, as that will lock all the essential nutrients in the vegetables. Do not add any extra spices and artificial flavors to enhance their taste. Boiling, blanching, and steaming the vegetables will ensure that you do not consume high-calorie food, thereby helping you reduce or maintain your weight. It also helps regain lost energy.

3. Grilling meat for long duration

There is no doubt that char-grilled meat tastes wonderful. However, according to a study that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology, people who had high amounts of charred meat carried a postmenopausal risk of breast cancer as compared to those who did not consume this muc charred meat.

4. Using excess salt

Salt has sodium in it, and that is undoubtedly a necessary part of our diet. It helps in the smooth functioning of our muscles and nerves and helps our bodies maintain fluid balance.

Excess of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn, can be life-threatening. It can cause heart attack, kidney failure, stroke, and many other problems related to health. According to the U.S. dietary guidelines, a normal human being must consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, which is only one teaspoon of salt per day.

5. Choosing the wrong marinade

Cooks love marinade, as it enhances the flavor of their food immensely. While food must be tasty, you must also make sure that you know all that is inside the recipe and the calories that it contains. Don’t forget to look at the nutrition label of the marinade bottle, as it might contain a high dosage of sugar and sodium. A high level of sugar can cause cavities and also exposes you to the risk of heart-related diseases.

6. Baked food

Whether you lose, gain, or maintain weight after consuming baked food regularly depends more on the food elements and not as much in the cooking technique.

Baked chicken is low in calories and more nutritious when compared to fried and sautéed food. If you have a baked pastry, you will cause a lot of damage to your weight loss plan, as it will have three elements in it – sugar, starch, and fats.

If you want to eat baked food, eat the right kind of food in small quantities and at the right slot of the day. Breakfast, for example, can be heavy, as you have the entire day to burn off the extra calories that you have consumed.

7. Adding too many toppings

Delicious and mouth-watering toppings are very tempting, but remember that it will land up straight in your belly! Be careful of the kind of toppings that you choose. You save 150 calories by removing ½ a cup of mozzarella cheese from your chicken. Choose fresh tomatoes and part-skim cheeses as toppings to keep you healthy and fit. Avoid nuts and cheeses as toppings and all other high-calorie toppings.

How to practice healthy cooking techniques

Most ingredients are healthy. They become dangerous and unhealthy only when cooked in the wrong way. Listed below are few things you can do to conserve nutrients and stay healthy:

  • You must cook vegetables only until they are tender and not boil, steam, sauté, poach, or stir-fry until they are over-cooked.
  • Do not wait for food to become warm, and serve it as soon as it is ready. Keeping food warm for a long time will cause many nutrients, especially vitamin C, to be lost.
  • It is a good idea to add raw fruits and vegetables to cooked food. A salad with every meal is great, as that will ensure that all the required nutrients are consumed by your body.
  • If you need to add oil to your food, choose canola or olive oil and take off all the extra unnecessary extra fat before you are ready to serve.
  • You can use vegetable stock or cooking liquids to make soups, as you can make sure that you do not throw away any nutrients.
  • Ensure that the meat you grill is not too moist, as that will help in browning the meat better. The grill must also be very hot before you add the food.
  • Make sure that you bake the food at a temperature less than 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, ensure that you fry the foods at a temperature which by no means is more than 347 degrees Fahrenheit, as this will help decrease the formation of acrylamide.
  • It is advisable that you use spray oils (and that too lightly) to coat your pan. This will ensure that you do not use excess oil, thereby helping you in your weight loss journey.

Healthy cooking is not only for a gourmet chef. Nor do you need to invest too much in buying costly ingredients and cookware. You can prepare nutritious and low-calorie food using very basic cooking methods. Using the right cooking technique can help you cut on saturated fats. It is hence safe to say that all cooking techniques have their advantages as well as disadvantages.

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