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Cooking tasty healthy food can be easier than you think

You can get best of both worlds when you are armed with knowledge

Deepa Gupta | New Delhi |

Are you getting bored with unhealthy ways of cooking? If you are, may be it is because you are cooking with few same methods every time due to lack of knowledge. We all know food is very important for us. Besides our bodies, our minds, taste buds and appetites also need to be nourished. There are plenty of ways to cook, so if you usually boil, saute or deep fry, may be its time to try something new that is healthy as well.

All foods are not created equal and some may taste better steamed or roasted while others are best grilled or baked. The more you know about healthy ways of cooking, the more you will get the most natural tastes of your dishes that is actually delicious.

The most important thing to be kept in mind while eating is that we should cherish good health. Yet it always seems to take a back seat to almost everything else. There is a wrong perception that food can be either delicious or healthy but not both at the same time.

It is not that if food is not loaded with artificial flavours and taste-boosting unhealthy ingredients, the recipe can never turn out to be satisfying to taste buds – it is just that our hectic schedule does not provide us with enough time to create healthy and satisfying meals.

The easiest way is to ensure that you get 100 percent of the health benefits is to cook food with healthy techniques incorporating health ingredients. These cooking methods will certainly not disappoint you. Get the best of both worlds.

Some great alternatives to unhealthy cooking practices for few healthy foods are:

Soyabean chaap: Considered to be the perfect substitute to meat, soya is super bursting with protein and other essential nutrients. It has a wealth of health benefits, including the ability to improve the metabolism, protect heart health, defend against cancer, improve digestion, promote bone health, protect against birth defects, increase circulation, decrease the risk of diabetes and tone up the body. Try not to fry them as they are loaded with protein and soy protein is similar to animal protein with high essential aromatic amino acid. These amino acids when fried convert to heterocyclic amines which are known to cause cancer. Rather, saute them in little oil until golden. Then you can use them in any recipe you like such as gravy chaap, chaap roll or chaap tikka.

Chicken: Baking of chicken produces drier meat but the flavour is more robust than boiled chicken. Baked chicken with the skin on is slightly high in calories than boiled chicken. While boiling some of the fat boils off into the water. Chicken is a good source of protein and other nutrients. The healthiest way to cook it is baking in oven or stir frying it in olive oil with lots of veggies. Load it with garlic, ginger, onion, tomato and lemon, bake or saute till crispy and brown.

Egg: Eating egg is generally super healthy no matter which way you are cooking it. However, some cooking methods add unnecessary calories, for this reason poached or boiled (either semi or full) eggs may be the healthiest foods to eat. Prefer these two cooking methods over all other ways such as frying, scrambling or baking. Cooking is necessary to make them safer to eat and it also makes some of its nutrients easier to digest. One study found that the human body could use 91 percent of the protein in cooked eggs compared to only 51 percent in raw eggs. It also helps make the vitamin biotin more available for your body to use. But cook for shorter time because research has shown that cooking eggs for long time reduces their vitamin A content, vitamin D content and antioxidants. Choose low-calorie cooking methods and combine them with vegetables to add extra fibre and vitamin to your meal. Do not overcook. If you love to fry them, use olive oil that is stable at high temperature.

Broccoli: The most recommended cooking method for broccoli has always been quick steaming. This method is better than boiling so as to retain its vitamin C content better. Overcooked broccoli becomes soft and mushy and along this loss in texture comes a loss in flavour and nutrients. The ideal way to cook it is – cut its florets into four pieces and let them sit for few minutes before cooking to enhance its health benefits. Then steam for five minutes. Many nutrients in broccoli are sensitive to total steaming time.

Mushroom: The healthiest way to cook mushroom is to grill or microwave them. Mushroom is versatile that can be tossed with salad, added to a bowl of pasta or paired up with pizza or Chinese cuisine. They can be cooked with a number of techniques but few can make them lose their rich fibre, vitamins and proteins. Boiling and frying them are poor choices. Besides resulting in loss of protein, it may spike that fat content too. When they are microwave cooked or grilled, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increases significantly and there is no major loss in nutritional value.

Leafy greens: If you want to eat your leafy greens without compromising too much nutrients, just stir fry or steam them but never overcook your greens. The longer you cook, the less you will get out of them. While some veggies might be more nutritious raw but dark green leafy do better with mild cooking to help break down the tough fibre to ease the load on your digestive system and make nutrients more bio-available.

Potato: The nutritional content of potatoes can vary depending on the way you cook them. The best method is steaming or baking with their skin on. Whole steamed or baked potatoes with skin on is the purest form as these processes can minimise loss of nutrients. Avoid eating them in fried form completely.

Benefits of healthy cooking:

  • Does not destroy dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds present in food ingredients.
  • Supports healthy digestion.
  • Lowers blood sugar levels.
  • Promotes a decrease in inflammatory conditions in the body.
  • Lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.
  • Decreases your risk of chronic diseases.

The way you prepare a dish, it can affect its nutrient profile. Do not devoid your food of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need to help our bodies and minds thrive. Know the most appropriate way of cooking what you are eating. Once you will try healthy methods of cooking that is full of natural flavours and backed with nutrients, you will be more satisfied and full. Making better cooking choices has never been so easy but it is very healthy. The more nutrient-dense foods you eat the less hungry you will be – it’s a win-win!

Getting right way of cooking is just a matter of getting into the habit!