Cooking your food properly

Published 10:12am Friday, February 24, 2012

Think cooking your food always destroys its nutrients? Think again. Some foods are actually healthier, if they are cooked properly.
Tomatoes, for example, contain a cancer-fighting  phytonutrient called lycopene, but cooked tomatoes contain as much as 171 percent lycopene as raw ones. That means tomato sauces are great, but one of the best ways to increase a tomato’s lycopene is to bake it. This also adds lots of flavor to sandwiches, salads, pastas and other dishes. Studies show a correlation between consumption of tomatoes and reduced cancer risk, particularly prostate cancer.
Other red fruits and vegetables like red carrots, papayas, peppers and watermelon also contain lycopene.
Watermelon, though, should not be stored in the refrigerator, because leaving a whole watermelon at room temperature for five days increases its lycopene and beta-carotene content by as much as 20 percent.
Broccoli, if cooked properly is healthier too. Steaming broccoli increases “glucosinolates,” which are compounds that fight cancer. Cooking broccoli in other ways reduces these compounds though.
When cooking meats, use the “slow method.” Meats like chicken that are cooked in liquid at moderate to low temperatures develop fewer cell-damaging compounds know as “AGEs” (Advanced Glycation End Compounds). These compounds are thought to be one factor in aging and some age-related chronic diseases. Grilling and broiling increase these compounds, but the “slow, wet” method of cooking can reduce AGEs by 50 percent.
While we all know garlic is healthful, there are ways to maximize its benefits too. Garlic contains an organosulfur compound called “allicin.”
Some studies show that allicin has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It’s also been shown to help trap cell damaging “free radicals” in our bodies. These attributes also make garlic good for your heart and whole cardiovascular system.
By crushing garlic cloves and letting them stand for 30 minutes, before cooking, these heart-protecting compounds are activated and preserved. Don’t cook garlic too long though. Cooking as little as six minutes can completely suppress garlic compound’s strength.
If you’re having a fatty fish like salmon for dinner, roast it with a bit of olive oil. According to a study published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,” this doesn’t increase the fish’s fat content, and preserves the fish’s omega 3 fatty acids, as apposed to frying fish in the same kind of oil. Frying  fish increases its fat content up to 10 percent, while adding unnecessary calories. By the way, here’s another nutritional tip.
When fixing leafy greens in a salad, add olive oil, nuts or avocado. This increases the absorption of disease-fighting compounds called “carotenoids.” These help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and personal trainer for 25 years.
He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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