Increasingly, we are encouraged to give more thought to the food that we eat. The main reason for this is one of health, for there is no doubt that the food has a direct correlation with our well-being. The more fat and sugar we consume, the more our health can suffer. High blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, to name just a few ailments, are symptomatic of a poor diet. Therefore, it is clear that we need to be mindful of what we eat, and be prepared to discard – or at least reduce – the foodstuffs that pose a health risk.
Changing what we eat is a good starting point but we also need to be mindful of the way our food is cooked. For example, the benefits of a nutritious vegetable can be reduced by an unsuitable cooking method and, similarly, a relatively unhealthy piece of meat can be made more healthy by choosing the right cooking method (tip: the anabolic cooking book gives you healthy recipes and tells you the best way to cook them). Consider the following methods:
Boiling is simply the process of cooking food in boiling water. This method is typically used to cook rice, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, meats (particularly useful for making tough meats palatable) and eggs. Its main advantages are convenience and ease. Drawbacks include the loss of soluble vitamins in the water (although this can be avoided if the water is reserved and consumed) and possible lack of flavor (no caramelisation for example).
Poaching is a gentler form of cooking, where the water or liquid used is heated without reaching boiling point. It is a good choice for cooking delicate foods. Often liquids other than water are used in poaching such as milk, wine or stock, all of which add flavor to the dish. This technique requires more skill than boiling as the delicate foods can lose their flavor if over-cooked. Poached foods do lose some of their nutrients in the cooking liquor.
Steaming simply uses the steam from boiling water to cook the food. A steamer, which keeps the food suspended above the boiling water, is generally used in this method of cooking. Steaming is regarded as a very healthy form of cooking due to the fact that steamed food retains more nutrients compared to the other cooking methods. On the downside, steaming is generally slower.
This method uses microwaves to agitate the molecules of the food to create heat and thus cook the food. The main advantage of a microwave is the speed of cooking although this may come at the expense of taste. In terms of other drawbacks to using microwaves, the data is not wholly clear. Some scientists believe microwaved food may lose nutrients more readily when compared to other cooking methods, although others dispute this. One concern with microwave cooking is the possibility of chemicals leaching from plastic container into the food being cooked. Glass is recommended to be used for this reason.
Grilling and Broiling
Grilling and broiling are essentially the same, and both use a dry heat source (e.g. an electric element or charcoal) to cook the food, which is normally suspended by a metal rack. The heat source can come from above or below. It can often be difficult judging whether grilled or broiled food is properly cooked and ready to serve. This can lead to health issues such as salmonella. Also the process of grilling/broiling can cause an increase in carcinogens in meat.
Stir-frying is a Chinese cooking technique that involves frying the food quickly in a small amount of oil in a wok. The food is stirred frequently to provide even cooking. Water can be added and, in conjunction with a lid, will allow the food to be steamed. In general stir-frying is a very quick process and this leads to more nutrients being retained in the food. From a health perspective, the addition of oil does add fat and calories to the dish.