Minimising harmful chemicals
The following article is an excerpt from the Food as Medicine cookbook, named 'Best in the World' for health and nutrition at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Developed by Australian Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, Sue Radd, this award-winning cookbook offers 150 delicious plant based recipes - each one chosen to help you live a longer, healthier life. Take a look at our favourite recipes from the cookbook in our Food as Medicine collection by clicking here.
Scientists are increasingly realising the way food is cooked might also be important for wellbeing. Modern high-heat and dry-cooking methods produce various chemicals in food that may cause your body harm.
10 tips to reduce nasty chemicals in your food:
- Go more raw and include fresh foods at meals and snacks (for example salads and fruits).
- Use moist cooking methods for most dishes (for example soups, stews and curries). Steam your vegetables or slow-roast potatoes, so they are succulent, not dry. Although wok cooking involves higher temperatures, it is quick so less chemicals can form.
- Avoid smoked and processed meat, chicken and fish of all types. The chemicals from smoked foods are hazardous and cured or preserved meats can damage the lining of your bowel.
- Minimise firing up the barbecue. If you use it, increase the proportion of vegetables and mushrooms on the hot plate and marinate animal-protein foods with spices or wrap them in banana leaves.
- Minimise use of the grill, dry frying, deep frying and dry roasting, especially for meats. While we all like to eat browned foods and crispy textures, these are a clue that more chemicals have formed during cooking. If you must grill or fry meats, flip frequently to prevent browning and trim any charred or blackened bits before eating. Avoid making gravy from drippings as it will be high in AGEs (advanced glycation end products).
- Avoid processed and extruded snack foods, cookies, biscuits, crackers and dark toast. These foods hide acrylamide. Never store your potatoes in the fridge (or freezer) before cooking. Fast-food chains do this, knowing it makes their fries more crispy, but it also boosts acrylamide formation.
- Drink tea when you need a hot drink (there are many herbal and non-caffeinated varieties) in preference to coffee and other roasted-grain beverages. Acrylamide is formed during roasting of the coffee beans and grains.
- Avoid or limit high-fat cheeses (examples: Brie, parmesan and cream cheese). Choose ricotta or cottage if you eat dairy. Or make your own plant-based “cheeses” from unroasted nuts and seeds (roasting significantly increases their content of AGEs).
- Avoid or limit butter, margarine, mayonnaise and chemically refined cooking oils (this includes most vegetable oils in the supermarket not labelled “extra virgin”). Such spreads and oils contain high amounts of AGEs without the balancing anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in whole plant foods, like nuts or extra virgin oils. It’s best to cook with extra virgin oils, like olive oil but avoid extreme temperatures.
- Never warm foods in plastic containers, or wash these in the dishwasher, as they will leach more chemicals.
Learn more about Sue Radd at www.nwbc.com.au.