Healthy cooking techniques everyone should know
Healthy and nutrient-dense raw foods can quickly slip into the not-so-healthy category if they’re put through a cooking technique that destroys their nutrients. This article will help you explore the best methods of cooking food to ensure you gain the most of what you intend to. Aside from learning the different types of cooking methods, we will also dive deep into combination cooking methods.
Cooking is a processing technique by which raw food is made edible and suitable for human consumption. The cooking techniques may involve pre-preparation and combining ingredients that are most often exposed to heat, thus bringing about a change in flavour, texture, and aroma of the finished product.
However, there are different cooking methods, some of which help to better retain the nutrients and minimise their losses. This article is an insight into the variation in cooking styles and which one is the best from the nutrition perspective.
How cooking style affects your food?
- There are numerous ways to enhance the availability of healthy nutrients based on the types of cooking methods used during preparation.
- By bringing about a change in temperature, one can modify the flavour, texture, and appearance of food. Even the processing method used during cooking can affect this parameter, right from the pressure of the knife used to the size at which the veggies are chopped.
- While most plant foods like vegetables and legumes are an important source of nutrients, they also contain certain anti-nutrient factors like oxalates and phytates. These substances need to be reduced or eliminated to prevent poisoning. This can be achieved by the use of a proper cooking style.
- The method of cooking food is also responsible for influencing the digestibility of the food and making it appetising for the consumer.
- Considering vitamins as an example, for most vegetables, healthy cooking methods include the use of water or steam as a heating medium for the retention of vitamins when compared to the cooking method of frying in oil.
Different cooking methods
Cooking methods can be divided into moist-heat or dry-heat methods. The former makes use of water as the cooking medium, while the latter uses fats or oil to cook the food. A third kind is the combination cooking method which makes use of both dry heat and moist heat techniques.
A) Moist-heat cooking methods:
- Boiling: When listing the different types of cooking methods, boiling is an important cooking method to consider due to how commonly it is used in the kitchen to prepare food. Boiling does not have a significant effect on fat, but it can break down proteins and sugars. During the boiling process, water-soluble vitamins like B complex vitamins and vitamin C can be lost. The taste of the food and the preservation of nutrients are also closely related to the boiling time and it is observed that vitamin C, vitamin B2, β-carotene, total flavonoids, iron and zinc gradually decrease with the increase in cooking time. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor the cooking time when boiling foods.
- Steaming: This is one of the types of cooking methods that mainly relies on water vapour to transfer heat. Here, food is suspended in a basket over simmering water in a covered pot set on the stovetop. The high pressure of water vapour can strongly penetrate food; rapidly cooking the raw ingredients but also preserving the integrity of the food and reducing the loss of nutrients. Steaming can protect inorganic salts and minerals from being destroyed. Thus, steaming can also be considered the best cooking method.
- Pressure cooking: Cooking food under high pressure can kill or passivate the microorganisms and modify the raw materials to improve the flavour and taste of the food, while conserving the nutrients. Since high-pressure cooking does not require high-heat, it has little effect on vitamins and essential bioactive pigments.
- Microwave cooking: In this cooking method, electromagnetic energy is converted into heat to cook the food. This cooking style is supposed to be efficient, pollution-free, and can better preserve water-soluble vitamins in food. When compared to boiling, microwaving is one of the healthy cooking methods and can lower the damage to the antioxidant capacity of vegetables like mushrooms. Besides, microwaving has less impact on vitamin C content and can preserve it efficiently for spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
B) Dry-heat cooking method:
- Frying: This method employs the use of hot oil in a skillet on a hot burner to cook the food. Here, the moisture is vaporised as the surface temperature of the food increases, resulting in a crunchy texture. Frying can kill harmful microorganisms in food and increase the shelf life, but this cooking technique can have a deteriorating impact on the nutrients. Besides, in the process of frying, if the temperature is too high, it can result in reducing the protein content, and destroy carotenoids and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E. Due to the usage of a fat medium, the resulting product would also be calorie dense and difficult to digest.
- Stir-fry: The ingredients in this method of cooking food are cut into thin strips or blocks and placed in a pot with hot oil. The size of the cut pieces and cooking time can affect the nutrients. Since a longer cooking period can heavily destroy the nutrients in food, it is best to stir-fry quickly using high-temperature to preserve the freshness and colour of the food and reduce nutrient loss. Try this mouth-watering cabbage stir fry recipe today.
Cooking food is an elaborate process, but along with enhancing the sensory attributes, it is essential to also adopt a cooking method that helps the final product retain the highest level of nutrients. From the above article, it’s clear that steaming and microwaving are some of the best methods of cooking foods as they minimise nutrient loss, ensuring the served platter is nutri-dense.