The healthiest way to cook is one that locks in flavor and retains valuable nutrients while reducing the need for sodium, sugar or fat. Healthful cooking helps you manage your weight by controlling calories and ensuring overall good health. Unhealthy cooking methods, such as frying, increase the risk of heart disease by raising artery-clogging LDL -- bad cholesterol -- and lowering HDL -- good cholesterol. Use healthy cooking methods as part of your overall healthy lifestyle.
Steaming is a healthful method of cooking. Steam foods, such as vegetables, by placing them in an enclosed container and cooking them with moist heat. The key is to avoid overcooking your food, so that it retains as much natural flavor and nutrient content as possible. Steam food using a perforated, collapsible basket that sits in a pot a couple of inches above boiling water, or use a Chinese bamboo steamer that is designed to sit in a wok. Electric steamers are also available. This gentle way of cooking works well for fish as well as vegetables.
Grilling, whether over charcoal or with gas heat, is one of the tastiest ways to cook a healthful meal. Dry, intense heat is essential. Grilling lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish at high temperatures allows excess fat to drain from the meat while sealing in the food's natural juices and flavoring. This makes added fat unnecessary and helps to keep calories low. The high heat also helps lock in valuable nutrients. Thread bite-size pieces of produce on skewers and grill them for a healthy and tasty meal.
Stir-frying involves cooking small, uniformly cut pieces of food -- such as meat, fish and vegetables -- in a small amount of healthful oil or sauce for a short period of time at very high heat. The method is ideal for retaining the vitamin and mineral content of foods. A Chinese wok, which is placed on a metal ring that sits above the stove burner, is typically used for stir-frying. Continuously stir or toss the food to keep it from becoming overcooked or sticking to the bottom of the wok. You may also use a standard sauté pan for stir-frying.
Poaching is a moist-heat method of cooking that preserves the flavor and locks in nutrient content, while keeping the shape of delicate foods -- such as eggs, fish and fruit -- intact. Poaching is a healthful way to cook because the method calls for no added fats or oils. Simply simmer food gently in a liquid, such as water, broth, or juice, until it is thoroughly cooked and tender.
Although microwave ovens are standard equipment in most homes, dorms and places of work, many people still question whether cooking food in a microwave oven is healthful. Microwave ovens use waves of electromagnetic energy to cook foods. Although nutrient loss is inevitable whenever foods are exposed to heat, microwave cooking may do a better job of maintaining nutrient content than stove-top or oven cooking because cooking times are shorter, according to the Harvard Medical School. Use only microwave-safe cooking containers.
- Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: The Benefits Of Cooking Veggies In The Microwave
- Baylor University: Simmer: Make It Healthy - Make It Delicious
- MayoClinic.com: Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Healthy Cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor And Cut Calories
- MayoClinic.com: Healthy Cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor And Cut Calories: Poaching
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