How you cook food can be just as important as what you cook. Like a baked potato is far better for you than a deep-fried sliced potato – voila French fries. Improve your health without compromising on taste by following these healthy cooking guidelines.
1. Replace “Bad” Fats with “Good” Fats
Whether you are cooking with oils or adding oil to a recipe, avoid saturated and trans fats whenever possible. In general, saturated and trans fats are fats that are solid when at room temperature (e.g. lard and butter) and are considered heart unhealthy. Cook with mono- or polyunsaturated fats, which tend to be liquid at room temperature (e.g. vegetable oils that include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil).
2. Bake, Roast, Steam, or Broil Instead of Frying
You have probably been told that fried foods are bad for you. Why exactly is this? One simple fact is frying leads to a food soaking up large amounts of oil which could lead to an over abundance of calories. The second reason is that frying involves cooking food in oil that has been brought up to a very high temperature. This high level of heat causes the molecular structure of the oil’s essential fatty acids to become oxidized. In other words, the fat molecules turn into “free radicals” within your body. An excessive amount of free radicals can damage the surface of the body’s cells, which can lead to an increased risk of many diseases.
3. Incorporate Antioxidant-rich Foods in Your Daily Meals
Speaking of free radicals, you can eliminate cancer-causing free radicals from your body by focusing a significant portion of your diet on antioxidant-rich food sources. There is a large variety of foods that are rich in antioxidants, some are better eaten fresh while others can be incorporated into your cooked meals. Antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, prunes, sweet cherries, kale, artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, avocados, collard greens, black beans, kidney beans, and much more. Spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cumin, ginger, chili powder, garlic, cardamom, peppermint, tarragon, sage, thyme, and basil are also high in antioxidants, and will add flavor to your favorite dishes.
4. Shop for Fresh Ingredients
Opt for recipes that use fresh ingredients. When shopping for food, spend most of your time around the periphery of the store where most of the fresh ingredients—fruits, vegetables, etc.—are located. Minimize the products that you purchase from the center aisles where most of the processed, prepackaged foods are located. Cooking with fresh ingredients will dramatically improve your overall health since fresh foods tend to contain a higher amount of essential nutrients.
5. Use Recipes as a Guideline
Instead of following recipes to a T, get creative by changing ingredients as needed in order to make a meal healthier. For example, replace lard or butter in a recipe with products such as Earth Balance or Canoleo, which contain a mixture of healthier plant-based, non-hydrogenated oils and have no cholesterol. When a recipe asks for white sugar, opt for another type of sweetener that is not heavily processed. Whenever using a recipe, go through the ingredients and cooking process to find out if there are ways that you can make the recipe healthier.
6. Season Food with Healthy Herbs and Spices
Instead of relying on butter, margarine, and salt to season your meals, try using herbs, spices, lemon juice, olive oil, and other healthier options. Allow time for your taste buds to adjust and experiment with various herbs, spices, and additional seasonings (one awesomely tasty option is sodium-free Spike, found in many grocers). Eating your meals more slowly will give you time to appreciate the inherent flavors in your meals without overdoing it on unhealthy toppings such as cheese, salt, and butter.
Today’s blog written by guest blogger, Valerie Johnston, a health and fitness writer living in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.