Monday, December 21, 2015

3 Reasons to Avoid OVERcooking Your Food

It rarely takes more than one time eating undercooked food to learn that there’s a good reason to not eat anything that hasn’t been cooked all the way through. And while undercooked food is certainly something to be on the lookout for, did you know that overcooking your food can also be risky for your health?

When we say “overcooking,” it isn’t as simple as just plain burning your food. For example, over-frying your eggs changes the protein structure and makes them less beneficial; and broccoli and other veggies that have been overheated can lose a lot of their vital nutrients. Cooking food over a certain temperature has been linked to many health risks, some incredibly serious.

Overcooked Foods are Harder to Metabolize
Raw foods are easier on your metabolism which, in turn, makes things easier for your digestive organs. But what happens when you heat them up? Once it’s been cooked past a certain temperature, food becomes more difficult to metabolize, which can result in it staying in your gut for longer than it should. And if it stays too long, it can become toxic. Cooking techniques like steaming and boiling can help your food remain below that dangerous temperature while still cooking it all the way through.

Overcooked Foods Lose Nutrients
Many vitamins (particularly vitamin C) are sensitive to heat, which means the longer you cook your source of vitamins, the more you deplete them. Your veggies are especially at risk for this, and studies show we should be eating more of them raw. That being said, cooked vegetables still have their own health benefits to offer. Try serving a raw veggie and a cooked one (steamed or blanched) with every meal to be sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Overcooked Foods Can Contain Carcinogens
When cooked until charred on the outside, certain foods can contain dangerous carcinogenic substances. Foods with carcinogens have been known to act as triggers that can convert normal cells in the body into cancerous ones. This is particularly true of meats, which produce harmful chemicals like heterocyclic amines or benzopyrenes, which can cause an increased risk for pancreas, distal colon, and breast cancer. You’ll especially need to watch out for this when grilling: if fat or juice drips onto the coals, hydrocarbons can rise off of them in the form of vapor and permeate the meat. To counteract this, try cooking your grilled foods en papillotte instead (that’s fancy chef speak for “in paper or a wrapping”).

Overcook No More
We’ve already provided a few pointers for preparing your food so it’s balanced between undercooked and overcooked, but here are a few more ways to help cook your food at the optimum temperature:
  • -With all cooking methods, cook with less intense heat at lower temperatures.
  • -Keep your grill clean, making sure to scrape off all the charred residue after each use.
  • -Avoid well-done meats and blackened or charred areas of any food.
  • -Cook with liquid: boil, steam, poach, or stew your meals.
  • -Marinate your food; some research shows marinating foods can reduce the production of carcinogens.
    • -A lot of yummy marinades use ingredients like olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cooking wine, or herbs and spices. Get creative with your marinades for healthier, tastier meals!

Want more cooking info like this? Keep up with communEATi here on our blog -- and on Facebook and Twitter -- for even more informative how-tos and pointers for your food preparation, from garden to kitchen to plate!

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