Healthy eating doesn’t stop at what you eat. It also matters how the food is cooked! Certain methods can increase the levels of chemicals, carcinogens, and toxins, which is just as bad as smoking cigarettes. Sometimes, nutrients are also destroyed in the process.
To get the most out of your food, avoid these 5 toxic cooking methods:
1. Deep Frying
From French fries to chicken nuggets, America loves deep frying. It’s cheap and fast, but the extra oil adds on saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Frying also oxidizes oil, a process that destroys unsaturated fats but creates trans fats. And when food is fried, it loses water but absorbs fat.1 It’s a recipe for heart disease. Even worse, the oxidized oil can form toxic compounds. Protein and other nutrients are also broken down, resulting in less nutritious food.2
2. Pan Frying
Pan frying isn’t any better than deep frying. At high temperatures, this method creates acrylamide, a potentially carcinogenic compound. Longer cooking times can increase the levels even more. Acrylamide mostly forms from plant-based foods, but potatoes are the worst offender as they’re the most frequently fried veggie. In other words, foods like hash browns can be toxic regardless of how they’re fried.
You can reduce acrylamide formation by cooking the vegetables until they are golden brown, not dark. The darker areas have more acrylamide, according to the FDA.3
Grilling might be a summer favorite, but it has its flaws. This high-heat cooking method uses an open flame made from gas.4 When meat is grilled, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed from the sugars, creatine, and amino acids. They’re also carcinogenic, which means they may raise the risk for cancer.5
However, what you grill is more important than the fact that you’re grilling. Red and processed meat create the most HCAs, especially when they’re well-done or charred. Even before grilling, they’re already linked to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and premature death.6 7
To further reduce exposure, grill fish and poultry, which form fewer HCAs.8 Grilled veggies and fruits are the safest bet.
Smoking not only preserves meat but adds lots of flavor to it. Unfortunately, it also creates two carcinogens – HCAs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are also found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes!9
Microwaves use electromagnetic radiation to heat food, but the radiation passes through glass. In 2011, the World Health Organization warned that those same frequencies may increase the risk of brain cancer in humans.12
It doesn’t help that microwavable food, like boxed and frozen meals, aren’t the healthiest. Even “microwave safe” containers release toxic doses of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical associated with breast cancer and neurological problems.13 The heat makes it easy for BPA to leach into food.
Instead of these cooking methods, try steaming, boiling, and baking. You’ll cut back on extra oil, fat, and chemicals! Vegetables and fruits are best eaten raw, so eat them fresh when possible.
|↑1||Guallar-Castillón, Pilar, Fernando Rodríguez-Artalejo, Esther Lopez-Garcia, Luz M. León-Muñoz, Pilar Amiano, Eva Ardanaz, Larraitz Arriola et al. “Consumption of fried foods and risk of coronary heart disease: Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study.” BMJ 344 (2012): e363.|
|↑2||Bordin, Keliani, Mariana Tomihe Kunitake, Keila Kazue Aracava, and Carmen Silvia Favaro Trindade. “Changes in food caused by deep fat frying-A review.” Archivos latinoamericanos de nutricion 63, no. 1 (2013): 5.|
|↑3||You Can Help Cut Acrylamide in Your Diet. United States Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑4||Grilling Safety. Mass.Gov.|
|↑5, ↑8, ↑9||Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑6||Zheng, Wei, and Sang-Ah Lee. “Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk.” Nutrition and cancer 61, no. 4 (2009): 437-446.|
|↑7||Protein. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑10||Stomach Cancer. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑11||Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.|
|↑12||International Agency for Research on Cancer. “IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Press release 208 (2011).|
|↑13||Rust, Susanne, and Meg Kissinger. “BPA leaches from ‘safe’products.” Journal Sentinel Online 3 (2008).|