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Are you cooking away the goodness?

How you prepare food is as important to your nutritional wellbeing as the types of foods you choose to eat.  Cooking can make foods easier to digest, or it can produce harmful – even carcinogenic – compounds, depending on the temperature and cooking method.

High temperature dry cooking of protein-rich foods can produce Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).  These form when sugars (carbohydrates) react with proteins, making the protein molecules stiffer and less pliable.  A great example of an AGE is barbequed steak: tough, charred and shrunken!

Cooking at a lower temperature and adding water to the foods reduces levels of AGEs which are strongly linked to premature ageing and degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

A harmful by-product of high temperature baking, frying or toasting of starchy foods is acrylamide.  This chemical is associated with cancer: the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acrylamides as ‘probable human carcinogens’ whilst animal model studies have shown acrylamides to cause adrenal, thyroid, lung and testicular tumours.

The typical Western breakfast can include several sources of acrylamides in the form of breakfast cereal, toast and coffee.  Crisps, biscuits and baked goods are other key sources so the standard diet can have a substantial acrylamide load, with children being particularly affected.

Raw foods, especially organic fruits and vegetables are naturally free from such chemicals.  A healthful alkalising diet consisting of vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, pulses, slow-cooked meats and oily fish offers minimal AGE and acrylamide exposure.  Using stable saturated fats such as coconut oil, ghee and butter for any higher temperature cooking minimises the damage caused to fats by cooking and saves cold-pressed seed oils for use in dressings and smoothies.

Juicing with a masticating juicer is a fantastic way to increase the nutrient content of an alkalising diet and preserves nutrients often lost in the high-speed centrifugal type juicers.  Swapping breakfast cereal and toast for a fresh green juice and slow-cooked porridge can give you a vitalising, acrylamide-free start to the day!

Further reading

‘Cooking ourselves to death’ Alliance for Natural Health available at http://anhinternational.org/2015/12/09/cooking-ourselves-to-death/  Accessed online 17/08/2016

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