More from: Learning to cook

What Cooking Methods Preserve the most Nutrients

Cooking has been an important part of humans since the stone-age period. Changing times have transformed cooking methods, becoming sophisticated from using firewood to using electricity. Cookery has become an art, technology, and a craft. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary across the world due to different cultural traditions, environment, and economy. The ways of cooking also vary depending on individual cooks and where they obtained their training. For instance, an Italian cook is expected to cook Italian cuisine whereas a French cook practices French Cuisine.

Cooking is done by people in their own homes or by professional cooks and chefs in food establishments. This greatly affects the quality of cooked food for one has the expertise while the other is doing it as a tradition taught by parents.

There are many ways to cook healthy food without adding unnecessary extras. Many people don’t know the basics of healthy culinary, therefore end up having unhealthy cooked food. Many don’t think about how their methods affect the nutrition make-up of their entrée. As you’ll see below heat can break down and destroy vitamins in food. However, some methods are more damaging than others.

Boiling

Boiling needs nothing but water, salt and of course eat whatever food you are cooking. This method can at times do away with most of the nutrients depending on the heat applied and the amount of salt used. The large volumes of boiling water and dissolved salt can dissolve water-soluble vitamins and minerals in some foods. However, boiling your meals could be the best to preserve nutrients in zucchini, carrots, and broccoli when compared to other methods like steaming or eating raw.

Broiling

This method involves cooking food under high direct temperatures for a limited period of time. It is a great method to cook meat but may not be ideal for cooking vegetables for they can easily dry and dissolve all the minerals and vitamins from them.

Stir-frying

This method requires some oil in the pan. It is efficient in cooking bite-sized meat pieces, grains like quinoa and rice and thinly cut veggies. The oil used should only be moderate in amount.

Poaching

Poaching is cooking food in a small amount of boiling water just below the boiling point with no additives. It takes a little longer compared to boiling for the temperature of the boiling water is slightly reduced. It is a great way to cook delicate foods like fish, eggs or fruits gently.

Grilling

It is used for cooking meat and vegetables. The method leaves the food juicy, tender and having a smoky flavor. It requires minimum added fats. Though grilling is full of healthy benefits regular consumption of grilled food is not advised.

Steaming

Research suggests that steaming is the best way to cook vegetables. Cooking any meal, this is from fresh fish to veggies using this method allows them to cook in their own juices and retain all the natural goodness they had before cooking leaving them tender and soft. There is no need to add fat-laden additions; the food has its own moisture sufficient for cooking. While cooking it is good to add a little seasoning, it can be a sprinkle of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice. Cooking broccoli using this method is full of health benefits including hindering the growth of cancer cells.

Microwaving

This method is healthy because it is fast for it takes a very short cooking time which results in little nutrient destruction. Microwaves cook by heating food from inside out. They emit radio waves that electrify the food particles making them move all round, generating heat randomly in the process cooking the food. To avoid the microwave from drying out food, splash the food item with water before heating. Always add extra oil for it helps the food not to dry out too. The best thing about the microwave is that it can be used to cook almost anything, from vegetables and meat to rice and eggs just be sure to use a microwave-safe container. Cooking broccolis is essential in preserving vitamin C.

No cooking at all

Raw food diets have gained attention recently for there are tons of benefits that come with it. Eating raw food is pivotal when it comes to keeping cancer at bay. Since the diet is mostly plant-based, more vitamins, minerals, and fibers are consumed with no additives like sugar, salt or sugar from cooking.

Use of chemical reactions

Cooking can occur through a chemical reaction, even without the presence of heat, it is most notably with ceviche, a dish where the fish is cooked with the acids in lemon or lime juice.

Fermenting

This is not a cooking method for there is no heat involved. However, it changes the health profile of the food. It is worth a mention. Fermentation results in formation of the probiotic bacteria which help repopulate your gut flora and keep your digestive system humming smoothly. However, fermented is not good to people with allergic reactions resulting from probiotic bacteria.

In general, different types of food need different cooking methods for maximum retention of nutrients. However, some other aspects of the food must be put into consideration before cooking to make sure the desired amount of nutrients remains.

Chop bigger vegetables – fewer nutrients are destroyed because it is only a small part of the vegetable that is exposed to air.
Consider cooking time and temperature – the longer the cooking time and the higher the temperature, the more nutrients are lost because nutrients are sensitive to heat and air exposure.
Use as little water as possible – some nutrients are water-soluble which easily dissolve and get washed away by water. Therefore, the less water you use, the fewer nutrients you lose. Not covering the cooking pot gives the steam room to escape with the dissolved nutrients. Covering reduces the cooking time too, preserving more nutrients that could have been lost while cooking for long.
The best way to cook food is the way you’ll actually eat it. The above well-explained methods offer new ideas for changing your cooking and increase nutrients. If you exclusively relied on one method worry no more, for now, you have diverse yet effective methods for different types of food you’ll be cooking.


Why Cooking Should be Taught in Schools

We live in a time when knowledge about food is becoming rarer and rarer and obesity levels are reaching ever increasing highs in the western world. We are facing a severe health crisis for the entire human race and food (and exercise) seems to be at the heart of it. Food inequality around the world is a severe issue as is the kinds of foods that people are eating. Many celebrity chefs and organizations such as the Women’s Institute in the United Kingdom have argued that if cooking was taught in more schools then the problem that we face would be far smaller. At the moment, it is left up to parents to teach their children how to cook or up to the children themselves to figure it all out once they have left home. More often than not, those children who have not been raised with a passion for food and a basic knowledge of cookery will choose to not cook from scratch and instead opt for a takeaway or grab an instant ready meal. In the age of the microwave and the 10 minute ready meal, why would many young people want to cook in the first place?

Well, those young people who have learned to cook will say that this knowledge gives them a step up when it comes to the adult world. It allows them to eat more cheaply and usually eat better quality food. Cooking is also a highly social activity and being able to cook means that you can invite your friends round to dinner and impress them with your cookery skills. These young people probably won’t have learned their skills at school though because, more often than not, the option is not available to them.

Cooking should be a fundamental part of adult life and being able to cook puts an individual at a distinct advantage. Schools should be providing these skills to children in the same way as they are meant to teach kids Maths or English or Science. Cooking is a practical activity that lots of kids would enjoy and therefore want to learn more. Lessons need only instil a basic knowledge of how cooking works. Once these basics have been taught the student can usually take it further themselves. However, a gentle push would have a huge impact if it was provided.

By teaching basic cookery you can also instil a respect for food and an understanding of where food comes from. The food chain is a bizarrely foreign concept for many young people, who are mostly removed from the food chain, from farms and the animals from which their meat is derived. By cooking the food these discussions can be had. The number of children who know where milk comes from is sadly very low but if they were to use it in making puddings or sauces, they will improve their understanding of what the product is and where it comes from. The issues surrounding meat production and land issues can also be discussed.

Health is a core part of cookery education and at the moment a trick is being missed by limiting health education to subjects such as biology or science. Embedding health education as part of cookery would suggest to students that what they eat has a direct impact on their health. This message is very rarely getting through to kids from their parents, hence why child obesity levels are scarily high in the western world.

Another important lesson to be taught through cookery would be the issue of food waste. By cooking food themselves students can become aware of both the amount of packaging that ready meals use, unnecessarily as well as the issue of keeping food for the right amount of time and the need to not throw any food away. Lots of households will end up buying more food than is necessary for the week and so will have to throw a lot of this away. It soon becomes normal for children and so they do not question it. These issues can be discussed in the classroom setting and students can begin to question these practices. When they cook themselves, the knowledge they gain can also be put to good use and they will learn to only use what they need. When it comes to washing up as well they will learn to not use more than they need in terms of utensils etc!

There is a strong need for cookery to be rolled out as a subject across the western world. Some education systems do include a degree of cookery but this is often on a small scale. We need to go further and instil in our students a love for food, a respect for where it has come from and a knowledge of what will happen to it if it is wasted.