Dangerous Toxins Formed During Cooking: Learn Healthy Cooking Methods
The way you cook your food is as important as what you eat. Imagine you take the time to go to the farmers market and spent so much money and bought the organic food. If you cook it wrong, that same healthy food can cause inflammation.
I will be explaining what the healthiest cooking methods are and what the dangers of cooking food incorrectly are. Fats, when burnt or heated beyond their smoke points, become toxic, not immediately, but in the long term, it can cause diseases like a heart disease and cancer.
Protein molecules are changed by heat, and if too much is applied or heat is applied for too long, they lose their structure and become useless to the body. Many of the processes our bodies perform are dependent on protein.
It’s not only proteins and fats that are denatured. Vitamins are often destroyed during the cooking process because of heat especially vitamin C and the B vitamins. These vitamins are found in meat, eggs, and vegetables. Food should be delicious, but it’s also fuel and nutrients that our bodies need to be able to work properly.
One of the biggest components of meat is protein. Another is fat. Of course, white meat like chicken and pork need to be cooked properly to kill possible bacteria and pythogens that may have born in the meat. But when it comes to your red meats like beef, rare is the healthiest way to eat it.
Meat that is cooked above 160°C or 320°F produces carcinogenic chemicals, namely heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Carcinogenic means the ability to cause cancer. Most meats are cooked above that when put into the oven.
The amount of these carcinogenic chemicals produced differs with the temperature and the amount of time spent cooking. Eating burnt meat or fat is like smoking a cigarette.
How to Properly Cook Meat
Most cooking methods also destroy the delicate omega 3´s and omega 6’s which are essential fatty acids. The good quality omega 3 supplement companies protect these oils. For example, krill oil capsules come always come in black capsule meaning they are even sensitive to light.
Meat contains a little bit of these oils. Read on for the best cooking methods to keep these fats from being denatured.
1. Cooking at a Low to Medium Heat and Covered
Cooking the meat in its own juices until rare with a little bit of water or a stable fat like coconut oil, ghee or lard produces tasty meat that is healthy to eat. Cover your pot or pan tightly to prevent the juices from escaping. This will help to prevent the denaturing of your fats by oxidation which causes fats to become rancid.
The lower heat will prevent the denaturing of the protein in the meat. This can be done by roasting or baking your meat.
2. Grilling or Barbecuing
The healthiest way to grill or barbecue meat is to do so only until it’s slightly brown on the outside and pink on the inside. Either rare or medium rare. Never char or burn the meat. The spices and herbs that you use can also help to prevent the fats from oxidizing by applying them directly or as a marinade or rubbing them in with some oil. These herbs and spices include:
Use different combinations for flavor while you make sure that your meat is at its healthiest. Trim excess fat off the meat because as it drips down it burns and the fumes that are then absorbed into the meat are carcinogenic.
3. Simmering Meat
Simmering is a lengthier method of cooking. The meat is simmered in liquids at a low temperature, just below boiling temperature. Because it takes longer to cook the meat when you simmer it, the protein becomes denatured.
4. Slow Cooking
Being an Indian, we cook for a longer time at low heat with spices to make a curry. No doubt it tastes very good, but the proteins in the meat are completely denatured if cooked for a very long time.
To combat the effects of the slow cooker, add spices and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) so that the meat doesn’t lose too many nutrients. This can also be done when you simmer your meat.
The difference between roasting and broiling, which is the safest method.
The safer method is roasting which is one of the healthiest methods to cook your meat. Roasting is done in the oven and there are different ways to do it like using a rotisserie or a special roasting pan, covered or uncovered.
The temperatures differ with the type of cut of the meat and how much meat there is. Larger cuts or whole animals are usually roasted longer at a lower temperature and smaller or thinner cuts are roasted quicker at high temperatures. Temperatures range from 149°C or 300°F to 260°C or 500°F.
To keep your meat healthy roast it at a lower temperature and keep it covered to cook in its own juices with a little bit of water or some fats as mentioned in the first point above. Use herbs and spices for flavour and to prevent oxidation.
Broiling is almost like grilling except that the source of the heat comes from above and is done in the oven. This method is not very safe, however, because the temperatures used to cook the meat are always quite high at 260–288°C or 500–550°F. Along with denaturing the proteins and other vitamins in the meat, the oxidises causing harmful chemicals that are absorbed by the meat.
Eggs also need to be cooked correctly so that the fats stay healthy and the nutrients are kept intact. The egg yolk is where the nutrients of the egg are found. The cholesterol myth is burst and yes! you can or you should consume egg yolks for the whole nutrition benefits. It’s best to cook it as little as possible. Add raw eggs to your smoothies as long as they are organic and when you do cook your eggs, make sure they are cooked sunny side up with the yolk left runny.
Cooking Methods of Vegetables
Vegetables are full of healthy vitamins and minerals. They are one of our biggest sources of vitamin C but unfortunately, vitamin C is very sensitive to heat. There are healthy ways to cook your vegetables to preserve the maximum amount of nutrients possible and even increase them.
Steaming is one of the best ways to cook your vegetables. Few nutrients are lost because steaming is done so quickly and at a constant low temperature of 100°C or 212°F. Because the vegetables are not sitting in the water, the nutrients don’t leach out as much and usually steaming only takes a few minutes. Another benefit is that the flavour and colour are retained so your vegetables are healthy and delicious.
Easy to steam vegetables
These vegetables are softer, take very little time to steam and can be steamed on their own. They usually take anything between 3-10 minutes depending on the vegetables:
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Bok choy
Hard to steam vegetables
While these vegetables steam well, they can take a little bit longer (10-30 minutes) and are best steamed together:
- Sweet potato
- Gem squash
Never over steam your vegetables. They shouldn’t become extremely soft or mushy. The best texture is slightly crispy or tender. You can check your vegetables in the middle of steaming them to test the texture. Chopping them and/or peeling them will reduce the time it takes to steam them even more.
2. Lightly Sautéing
Sautéing is usually done over a medium heat and cooks the vegetables quite quickly. This helps to preserve the flavour and the nutrients. Use a healthy oil that can handle heat like ghee or coconut oil. The vegetables should just be lightly browned until tender or still slightly crunchy. You can also try using a broth which you can use as a sauce or gravy to go with your vegetables instead of oil.
Steamed vegetables can be lightly sautéed to add flavour as they can’t be seasoned during steaming. I heat ghee in a pan. I then add cumin and all the other spices like garlic and turmeric and then I add steamed vegetables into the pan. I add salt, pepper, and herbs at the end like coriander, basil, and parsley according to the recipe.
3. Boiling The Vegetables
Some vegetables contain anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc during digestion. The following vegetables should be quickly boiled and the water drained to remove the anti-nutrients:
- Swiss chard
If other vegetables are boiled the water should not be drained. The nutrients leach out into the water which should be added to gravies, sauces or soups so that you can take in these nutrients. The only vegetable that doesn’t lose nutrients during boiling is unpeeled carrots.
Other safe cooking methods
Baking should be done at or below 160°C or 320°F. You can bake your meat and your vegetables and even combine them to make delicious and nutritious meals. While you can bake with the baking pan or tray uncovered, to seal in the goodness cover the pan or tray so that the juices won’t escape and won’t oxidise. Adding herbs and spices will also help with this.
Poaching is a form of cooking that uses very low temperatures and a form of liquid. The food is simmered in the liquid until it is cooked which can take longer depending on the type of food. Because of the amount of water and cooking time, it can denature the nutrients like protein in meat, and the vitamins leach into the water. But you can minimise this.
Using cooking accessories specially designed for poaching specific foods, for example, eggs, or a pan or pot that fits the food without too much leftover space is helpful in minimising the amount of water that comes into contact with the food. You can also use the liquid as a sauce, in soups, or gravies to make sure that you eat the nutrients.
Smoking food is done in a smoker or on a grill using a low heat. It’s a long cooking method, usually taking anything from 30 minutes to 6.5 hours. Smoking food has the benefit of keeping most of the nutrients intact and in the food, especially vegetables, because of the low heat.
In some cases, the meat can be undercooked which is especially dangerous when it comes to chicken, fish, and pork. Steps can be taken to prevent some of these health risks:
- Always check the temperature, it should remain between 107-149°C or 225-300°F depending on which type of meat or vegetable is being smoked.
- The meat should always be thawed and marinaded first, preferably in marinades containing vinegar which help to keep the dangerous chemicals from forming. Add herbs and spices too.
- If you are using a smoker, make sure that it’s of a high-quality. The materials used to make the smoker should handle heat well without releasing dangerous chemicals.
Dangerous cooking methods
Microwaves might be convenient but microwaving is one of the worst ways to cook food. Because of the way the microwave heats or cooks food, using a form of radiation, this changes the structure of the foods quickly. One study found that microwaving the food shifts the ph value of the food, making it more acidic.
Don’t use your microwave to cook or thaw the food. If you must use it, don’t use plastics which release harmful chemicals when heated. But it’s best to get rid of your microwave or microwave oven. I even do not heat my food in the microwaves anymore. Convection heaters are far better than the microwaves and they do not emit the harmful radiations.
Deep frying involves putting food into fat or oil deep enough to cover the food and cooking it until done. The temperatures used to do this are 160-190°C or 320-375°F and the food cooks quite quickly.
But the heat denatures the oils and proteins. Reusing oil over and over again oxidizes it even further. Cancer levels in people who eat deep-fried food often compared to those who consume less deep-fried food are higher, so there is definitely a link between deep-fried food and cancer.
There is no health benefit at all to eating deep-fried foods and the food can be dangerous to consume especially if you eat it regularly. If you insist on deep frying food, never reuse oil and always use oils that have a high smoke point. But I recommend using healthier cooking methods.
This doesn’t mean that I do not eat french fries. I eat them, first of all, they are sweet potatoes and not potatoes, secondly, they are baked and not deep fried
3. Barbecuing or Grilling
Although these methods, especially when done outside over coals or wood, are absolutely delicious, they are harmful to your health, especially if you cook your cook your meat till the outer layer is black, meaning charred meat.
Barbecuing is done by slowly cooking the food at a low temperature, often covered so that it gets that smoky flavor. Grilling is done at a higher temperature and is usually uncovered and the cooking process is quicker.
The source of the heat is below the food and the fat and juices end up dripping down at the grill and the fumes that meat will absorb are dangerous to health. These chemicals are absorbed by the food and your clothing as well. Don’t use this cooking method often, trim the fat and use spices and marinade to help minimise oxidation of the fats.
Choosing good cookware that doesn’t leach chemicals into your food is just as important as cooking your food correctly. If you see your old non stick pan, you can see that with time it lost the shiny surface and the coating. Where is it gone? It is in you, through your food. One should never use stain-resistant, non-stick and water-repellent surfaces in cooking or in baking.
Also, non-stick cookware is made using a chemical called PFOA, which starts emitting toxic fumes that you inhale every time you cook with a non-stick pot or pan. Documented health effects of inhaling these chemicals are Thyroid Problems, Liver Toxicity, Obesity and immune system problems.
Healthier forms of non-stick coating are now being used, but they still leach out chemicals that are not so healthy. Rather choose one of these options below.
1. Ceramic cookware
High-quality ceramic cookware withstand high temperatures. This cookware is the best type to use for everyday though it can be pricey. But one can heat it to 2000 degrees. It will last 50 years, so it is worth the investment. Easy to clean and light weight as well.
2. Stainless steel cookware
As with ceramic cookware, high-quality stainless steel is also made without harmful chemicals and metals. Poorer quality stainless steel cookware is that it contains more nickel which seeps into the food when cooked.
3. Cast iron cookware
Cast iron cookware is high-quality, but it leaches iron into the food, which could be a good thing actually. Women who menstruate need more iron than children and men. They are very heavy and difficult to clean though.
Raw Vs Cooked Food
Contrary to what some people might believe, there are benefits to both cooked food and raw food and there are even certain foods that should only be eaten cooked and some foods are much better eaten raw.
Advantages of Cooked Food
It is believed that cooking foods allowed the human species to evolve and develop superior brains. The brain needs calories and one cannot eat so many calories in the RAW food. So eating cooked food differentiates our brains superior working as compared to the Apes.
Then there are certain foods, whose nutrition values increases if cooked. Example, in tomatoes, lycopene is released when cooked. Lycopene is an antioxidant. Consider cooking your tomatoes often if not always so that you can consume more antioxidants. There are also other vegetables that have more advantages when cooked like Carrots, Zucchini, Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, and broccoli.
I have been hearing a lot these days raw kale shakes, I would not advice consuming kale RAW, because of the oxalic acid, which converts into oxalates in the joints and causes problems. Same goes with
Thus cooking kills anti-nutrients in the Cruciferous vegetables such as collards, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and bok choy.
Advantages of Consuming Raw Foods
Some nutrients get destroyed by cooking. Aside from the vegetables that are meant to be cooked, eating most of your vegetables raw can give you more nutrition than the cooked variety. Raw milk also retains more of its nutrients but get it from a reputable source because getting it from unhygienic farms can cause you to get sick. The same goes for eggs.
You can also eat fish raw in the form of sushi. Be sure to get your fish from a good quality store and to make sure you follow all the guidelines for making sushi safely.
Eat at least a third of your food raw if not more than that.
Some of the best foods to eat raw are:
- Bell peppers
- Raw dairy like milk and yogurt
- Fish like salmon and tuna (sushi)
Juicing is a great way to consume raw foods. Click here to read more.
How I eat
I eat two meals per day and the rest is basically liquid or a snack in between which is basically an avocado-based shake. Lunch is full of cooked veggies with meat. Dinner is actually raw salad (lettuce + olives + cucumber + Radishes + Sauerkraut). I make sure to eat sauerkraut any form of probiotic daily.
So I eat 50:50. 50% Raw and 50% cooked.
- High temperatures denature fats and proteins and destroy vitamins
- Cooking meat incorrectly can cause carcinogenic chemicals to be released.
- The best cooking methods are roasting for meat (covered and cooking in it’s own juices) and steaming for vegetables.
- The most dangerous cooking methods are microwaving, deep frying, grilling and barbecuing.
- Use high-quality ceramic or stainless steel cookware. If you struggle with an iron deficiency, use cast iron cookware since it releases iron into the food.
- Always cook spinach, kale, bok choy and swiss chard. Tomatoes’ and carrots’ nutrient levels increase when cooked.
- Eat at least a third of your food raw. Foods like avocados, olives, onions, and beetroot should be eaten raw to preserve the nutrients.