How Do Cooking Methods Impact on Health?

You can take one item of food and cook using different methods but the end result and the health implications will not necessarily be the same for each cooking method. Why is this? Well, the process of cooking food, including the oils and other substances we use to cook, have a significant influence on nutritional value, molecular structure and therefore, the impact on health. Let’s have a look at the four most common cooking methods and their effect on health.

Boiling Versus Steaming

Boiling food, (most commonly vegetables), in a pan of water may be a healthy method of cooking in terms of maintaining a healthy weight, however, it can be detrimental to the vitamin content of the food. The reason for this, is that most of the vitamins in vegetables, such as vitamin C and some B vitamins, are water soluble and therefore leach out and become lost into the water. Over time, this can lead to a significant reduction in vitamin intake and heighten the risk of vitamin deficiency and health complications.

Steaming vegetables, however, allows the vitamins to remain intact as they do not come into direct contact with the water. Not only is steaming more vitamin friendly but it is also a more efficient method of cooking. If you do decide to boil vegetables, try to use the leftover water for soups or sauces in order to get the full value of the vegetables’ nutritional content.

Frying Versus Grilling

Frying is quick and easy but does it have the same health benefits of grilling? Frying is indeed a very efficient method for cooking, however, if this method is used on a constant basis, health risks may begin to arise. Firstly, frying requires oil and unless you are using the finest and healthiest oils (which are also usually the most expensive), you run the risk of adding undesirable substances into your food.

Most common cooking oils, such as sunflower oil, although acceptable in moderate use, can be harmful if used too often. This is predominantly because sunflower oil is high in omega 6 and if the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is imbalanced, it can heighten the risk of certain health conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Also, re-using cooking oil can form trans-fats which are, in the long-term,  also harmful to health. That said, omega 6 is actually beneficial and is known to reduce cholesterol but only in the correct ratios. Omega 3 is not quite so abundant and therefore it is easy to overdo the omega 6.

Grilling, however, does not require any oil and consequently does not add any harmful substances to the meat and in fact, actually reduces the fat in the meat.

Now this does not mean that fat is not good for you, quite the reverse. Fat is an essential component of the diet and helps the body to absorb essential vitamins, however, it does not necessarily have to be used in the cooking process itself. Instead, you can use healthier oils, such as olive oil for drizzling on salads, pasta or any other appropriate dish, again in moderation. Olive oil can also be used for light frying but not for high heat frying as it will burn and become carcinogenic in nature and in turn, may pose a threat to health.

It is sometimes just the simplest of lifestyle changes that can make a considerable difference to health and life expectancy. It is also worth noting that these changes do not in any way require sacrificing on taste and the enjoyment of food.

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