The Best-to-Worst Ways to Cook Your Food
You take great care in choosing the right foods for your
family to eat, but did you know that the way they're prepared
can have a large impact on their nutritional value?
Whereas some cooking methods will preserve the food's nutrients
and flavor, others can actually diminish nutrient content
and create harmful substances within your food.
What about the microwave? While some believe microwaving
is a fast way to cook food without a lot of extra oils,
others believe it can change the chemical structure
of the food in unknown, potentially negative, ways,
while reducing fragile nutrients.
It is always preferable to cook foods at lower temperatures
than higher temperatures, not only because the nutrients are
better preserved but also because the oils that you cook your
food with -- particularly vegetable oils like soybean, corn
and canola -- are easily damaged (oxidized) by the heat, posing
Fortunately, there are many cooking methods out there that
are good for your food and good-tasting. Here we've outlined
some of the most popular cooking methods, starting with the
healthiest methods and ending up with the worst.
1. Eat Your Foods Raw
Well, it's not exactly a cooking method, but it is a very
healthy way to consume many of your favorite foods. Raw
foods, advocates say, are higher in vitamins and nutrients,
which are destroyed by cooking. Eating raw may seem extreme,
but you can actually prepare some pretty tasty dishes if you
know what foods to combine.
If you would like to try out some delicious raw food recipes
for yourself, Alive
in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is packed with
them (raw lasagna, spaghetti marinara, stuffed mushrooms,
broccoli in cheese sauce, apple pie and more). They're healthy
and delicious, even if you're new to raw foods!
Simply put a little water in a pot, put in a steamer basket
or colander, and add your food. As the water boils, the steam
will gently cook your food. Be sure not to cook your food
for too long (veggies should still be brightly colored and
slightly crunchy when they're done), and you can also add
some spices to the water to flavor the foods as they steam.
This method works especially well for fragile vegetables
like leafy greens and fish.
You can poach chicken, eggs and other foods by simmering
them in a little bit of water or broth on your stovetop. Use
a covered pan and take the foods off the heat when they're
Baking in your oven is a perfectly healthy way to cook, though
it's preferable to use a lower temperature and a longer cooking
time than a higher temperature to cook the food more quickly
(roasting is typically done at a higher temperature). You
can bake meat, fish, poultry, veggies, bread, fruit and anything
else. To keep in some of the moisture, try keeping your baking
Stir-frying is a fast, healthy way to cook. Chop your meat
and veggies into small, uniform pieces, add a little oil or
broth to a pan or wok, then stir the foods until they're just
cooked through (add meat, which takes longer to cook, before
the veggies). To preserve the nutrients in the veggies, cook
them only slightly.
When you braise a piece of meat or fish, you brown it slightly
in a pan, then cover it with a small amount of liquid such
as broth. The pan is covered, and the food is left to slowly
and gently finish cooking. After the food is removed, the
leftover juices can be used to make a flavorful sauce.
Boiled foods are healthy in that no harmful substances form
when using this cooking method. However, there is some concern
that nutrients may be lost when foods are boiled, and they
may become overcooked. Steaming is a preferable cooking method
Want a break from the stove? Try a raw smoothie for
breakfast or a snack. All you need is a blender, some
fresh or frozen fruit, and, if you like, some kefir,
yogurt or whey protein powder.
Sauteing (cooking foods in a small amount of oil on your
stovetop) is an acceptable form of cooking, although it does
pose the problem of oxidizing oils. To avoid this, replace
the oil with some broth instead and don't turn the heat up
9. Grilling and Broiling
Many people love to grill their foods, however there are
some potential problems to be aware of. Barbecue grill smoke
contains cancer-causing chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, heterocyclic amines form when food
is cooked at a high temperature, such as those used in grilling
and broiling. The chemicals have been linked to cancer.
Advanced glycation end (AGEs) products are also produced
when meats are cooked at high temperatures. AGEs, according
to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York,
build up in your body over time leading to oxidative
and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney
Frying foods is the absolute worst way to cook your foods.
The high temperatures produce cancer-causing heterocyclic
amines, along with AGEs. Meanwhile, frying exposes your foods
to large amounts of oxidized (rancid) vegetable oils, which
then soak into your food and wreak havoc in your body. You
should avoid frying your foods and use the cooking methods
higher up on this page instead.
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