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HEALTHY CORNER: 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 health risks.

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.

2. Steaming
Steaming is cooking food in an environment where the surrounding air has high moisture content. Regarded as one of the healthiest methods of cooking, steaming is growing in popularity because no fats or oils are used during the cooking process. Steaming retains most nutrients during cooking processes and the most natural flavour out of all the cooking methods. 
Steaming can be done in a microwave or on the stove top with metal or bamboo steamers. 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.

3. Poaching
Poaching is also cooking food that is completely submerged in water, milk or a flavoured liquid. Different to boiling and simmering, poaching is done at 93°C/119°F to 95°C/203°F where there is no movement in the liquid. The most delicate foods such as eggs (out of shell), soft fruits, chicken breast and some fish are usually poached.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 tender. For this reason, it is important to keep the heat low and to keep the poaching time to a bare minimum, which will also preserve the flavour of the food.

4. Baking/Roasting
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 dish covered.

 Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is the perfect cooking companion for anyone who wants to get more fresh, healthy and great-tasting foods into their diet — but doesn’t have a lot of time to do it.

5. Stir-Frying
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.

6. Braising
Braising is similar to stewing, but the food that is being cooked is only half covered in liquid. With braising, the vessel where the food is being cooked is covered with a tight lid and put in the oven. This is where the cooking process takes place. The heat is encasing the pot and giving it even heat from all over. The braising temperature for meat is usually about 180°C/355°F to 200°C/390°F. For vegetables it’s between 140°C/285°F to 160°C/320°F. Cuts of meat with high sinew and muscle content such as lamb shanks and shoulders are usually used.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.

7. Boiling
Boiling is the transfer of heat to food that is totally immersed in water, milk or a seasoned stock. Boiling is done at 100°C/212°F. Not all foods are suitable for boiling. High temperature can sometimes toughen up meat. Therefore a long and slow simmering on a low heat maybe required to tenderize the meat. Rapid boiling and simmering can break up some delicate foods such as brains, berries and fish leaving them unappealing to eat. The foods that are more suitable for boiling are starchy items such as noodles or rice. Root vegetables, like potato and carrots are also good for boiling due to their tougher texture. However, delicate foods like fish are not recommended for boiling as they will fall apart.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 to boiling. 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.

8. Sauteing
Sauteing is a method of cooking food, that uses a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. Ingredients are usually cut into pieces or thinly sliced to facilitate fast cooking. The primary mode of heat transfer during sautéing is conduction between the pan and the food being cooked. Food that is sautéed is browned while preserving its texture, moisture and flavor. If meat, chicken, or fish is sautéed, the sauté is often finished by deglazing the pan's residue to make a sauce.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 too high.

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 stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

10. Frying
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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