If I asked you what “what healthy diet do you follow and what is the healthiest way to cook?” it’s likely you would name a well– recognized method popular today. Truth is, learning the fundamentals of healthy cooking will help you wade through the tsunami of media hype. With hundreds of diet gurus trying to sell you on their book or program, understanding what defines healthy cooking will arm you with the information you need to make the right choices. Fad diets and cooking methods come and go but true healthy cooking concepts withstand the test of time.
Shopping in the produce section for most of your ingredients is an important key to cooking as healthy as possible. In the produce department we find foods that have recently been picked so they still have the highest levels of vitamins. Nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals decrease as fresh food ages and deteriorates. Fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section are often only a day or two old making them the freshest foods with the highest vitamin count that you can buy. This is healthy cooking at its best.
Be sure to cook foods quickly so as to reduce the total amount of time the food is exposed to heat. Heat destroys vitamins in foods so therefore we want to minimize the total amount of cooking time that food is exposed to the cooking source heat. So for instance, five minutes over a grill is a healthier cooking method than 40 minutes cooking in an oven. In other words, food being exposed to heat for 5 min. is better than being exposed to heat for 40 min.
Select foods and cooking methods that reduce the overall processing and storage time between harvest and serving. Food that has been minimally processed like homemade applesauce is a better way to eat cooked apples than store-bought applesauce in individual plastic containers. Homemade applesauce moves from fresh apples to cooking down into a saucepan – it’s a “ one step processing”. Store-bought applesauce however involves several other steps, the addition of preservatives, and heat processing to prevent botulism and to seal the individual pack containers. One-step of processing from fresh fruit to dinner plate preserves more vitamins and minerals than multiple steps of processing from a factory, and perhaps months of storage on a shelf.
Even though food companies will try to convince you how healthy their food is, if you understand these fundamental guidelines you will be able to recognize what is and is not healthy cooking. Stick to shopping the outer perimeter of the store to find the healthiest, least processed foods available. The faster you can bring your food from freshly picked on the farm to serving – ready, the more you are speeding up the cooking process and preserve the food’s vitamins. Highly processed foods that sometimes barely even resemble the original ingredients will have lost much natural nutrition.
Knowledge is power -when you understand what defines healthy cooking empowering you with key information that will serve you and your family for the rest of your life.
For more information on What Is Healthy Cooking, here is a link to a resource you can trust – The American Heart Association