Experts in natural health never tire of reminding us that food is the best medicine – especially preventive medicine. If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and other healthy items you have the best chance of staying at optimal health and avoiding illness.
But what you do in the kitchen with your food can make a big difference in how many nutrients and health benefits you get from that food. If you embrace a few simple tips about picking out and preparing your food, you can earn a big dividend in extra nutrition and natural nutrients that protect your body from toxins, chronic disease and other dangers.
Some of these will sound strange, but they work. This is what I mean.
Picking Out Produce
When you choose the fruits and vegetables you want to eat, there are easy ways to make sure you get the foods that have the most phytochemicals and antioxidants. Some of these tips for getting the biggest nutritious bang out of your fruits and vegetables are from Jo Robinson, who spent ten years researching this subject for her book Eating on the Wild Side
- Before cooking with garlic, cut it, slice it and mash it and let it sit for a while. That action stimulates chemical reactions that create health-promoting natural chemicals.
- If you are having a salad, Robinson says to pull the lettuce apart before you serve it. The action of tearing it increases the antioxidants in the lettuce.
- Cook your carrots to allow your body to absorb the carotenoids more effectively. (Cooking tomatoes likewise allows you to absorb their lycopene, one of the carotenoids.) And don’t slice the carrots before cooking. Slicing causes a loss of falcarinol, an anti-cancer natural compound.
- If you purchase corn, buy corn that has a deep yellow color. Corn that is a deeper yellow can possess up to 30 times the carotenoids as that in lighter colored corn.
- When you thaw out frozen berries, Robinson advises using the microwave. She says doing this maintains higher antioxidant levels than thawing them at room temperature or in the fridge. (I have my doubts about microwaves though, so I’m an agnostic on this tip.)
- Choose tomatoes that are the deepest red. They contain more antioxidants than those that are yellow, gold or green.
- When storing broccoli in the refrigerator, put tiny pin holes in the plastic bag. Robinson says that increases the broccoli’s antioxidants.
To these tips, I would add that you should make sure you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. That can help you consume the widest range of phytochemicals and antioxidants that optimize your health.
The Right Oil
The first basic tip for your kitchen prep is to never, and I repeat never, use soy oil for any cooking purpose. The best oils to use for all of your cooking, according to experts, are olive oil and coconut oil.
Lab research at the University of California-Riverside shows that all types of soy oil, when used for cooking, are probably linked to an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, insulin resistance and fatty liver disease. (As a matter of fact, their research indicates that soy oil may be worse for your weight than high fructose corn syrup.
The California scientists recommend always cooking with olive oil or coconut oil which seem to be safer for keeping your weight down. They point out that “vegetable oil, and, in particular, soybean oil, began to replace animal fat in the American diet starting in the 1970s, resulting in an exponential rise in soybean oil consumption that parallels the increase in obesity in the U.S. and worldwide.”
They add that “soybean oil is the component in the American diet that has increased the most in the last 100 years” – and it is probably a prime reason obesity has become so prevalent.
Cook at Lower Temperatures
There’s more to this. When you cook with any oil, say researchers at the University of Edinburgh, don’t fry or roast at high temperatures. Keep the cooking temperature down to around 300 degrees. This pretty much nixes frying.
The best information I have differs somewhat from what the Edinburgh group says. I believe it’s safe to heat coconut oil up to 350 degrees.
But in general, they’re right. Heating oils to high temperatures – typically to the “smoke point” — can lead to the creation of an overload of unhealthy trans fatty acids along with toxic substances that are called neo-formed contaminants (NFCs). NFCs are associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
The Edinburgh researchers add that you should never reuse cooking oil. Every time oil is used for cooking, it accumulates a greater number of toxic byproducts.