(NaturalNews) Choosing better foods to eat is only half the battle when you're goal is to improve your overall wellness. The road to a better diet is also paved with better preparation methods, not just better foods.
"While most people know to ditch the fryer when cooking up healthy meals many don't think about how their cooking method affects the nutritional make-up of their entree," write Lindsay Joe and Elizabeth Jarrard of Greatist.com, a fast-growing fitness, health and happiness start-up.
For instance, they note, vegetables can lose up to 15-20 percent of some essential vitamins because of heat, including vitamin C, folate, and potassium. They add that some cooking methods are worse than others, which "is why raw foodists cut out cooking altogether, claiming that uncooked food maintains all of its nutritional value and supports optimal health."
That said, some recent studies have noted that certain foods can benefit from cooking. Heat can help release antioxidants from tomatoes, spinach and carrots, just to name a few, by breaking down cell walls and providing easier passage of healthy components into the body.
Let's examine a few of the healthiest cooking methods and what effectively makes them better choices:
Editor's note: For a better explanation of why microwave ovens destroy your food, read this more recent article by Mike Adams, the editor of this site:
Steaming your fish and veggies is safe, healthy and efficient. The experts note that steaming food is an excellent way to prepare it while locking in freshness, nutrients and vitamins.
"Cooking anything from fresh veggies to fish fillets this way allows them to stew in their own juices and retain all their natural goodness," Joe and Jarrard write. "And no need for fat-laden additions to up the moisture."
They recommend adding a bit of seasoning first, such as a sprinkle of salt or even a squeeze (or cap-full) of lemon juice.
"To steam on top of the stove, simply bring water to a boil in your selected stove-top steamer, reduce heat so that a strong simmer sends steam escaping, add food to the steaming compartment, cover with a lid, and begin timing," says Shape magazine.
Poaching is another steaming technique you can use. Some experts think poaching decreases nutrient retention because it generally takes a bit longer, but it is an effective way to prepare delicate foods like eggs, fish or even some fruits.
Broiling and grilling your way to goodness. Anytime you don't have to toss your food into boiling grease in order to prepare it, you are light years ahead of the game in terms of preparing healthy meals.
Broiling involves cooking food under direct heat at high temperatures for a short period of time. Broiling is a really good way to prepare tender cuts of meat (though you should remember to trim excess fat before doing so). Broiling is not the best way to cook vegetables; however, because it can dry them out easily.
Grilling is another way to retain maximum nutritional value in your foods without giving up flavor. "It requires minimal added fats and imparts a smoky flavor while keeping meats and veggies juicy and tender," say Joe and Jarrard.
"Grilling adds calorie-free smoky flavor to meats, vegetables and even fruits, and the high heat produces an unmatched crisp crust," says FoodNetwork.com.
Editor's note: Grilling is terrible for your health if it burns the food. Burned foods contain cancer-causing chemicals created during the burning process.
Whip up some stir-fry. This cooking method does require use of a small amount of oil in the pan, what is required is very minimal; you should only need just enough to get a nice sear on your meat and veggies. Stir-fry techniques are best for bite-sized pieces of meat, some grains like quinoa and rice, and thin-sliced veggies such as julienned carrots, bell peppers and snow peas.
"Stir-frying is an incredibly versatile cooking method for any healthy eater because it works well with meats, tofu, and vegetables; it's fast, which means you can put together a dinner quickly; " and "it helps you add more healthful veggies to your meals," says the healthy eating website SparkPeople.com.