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Healthy Cooking Methods: 6 Alternatives to Frying

Healthy Cooking Methods: 6 Alternatives to Frying

How many times in a week do you or your family eat fried food? Your answer may range from just a “few times” to “almost every day,” and that would not be surprising. This is because frying is a quick and easy way to cook. But did you know that fried foods may be linked to earlier death and other health issues? So other than frying, how else should you cook your food? Here’s what you need to know about healthy vs unhealthy cooking methods.

The Basics of Healthy Meal Prepping

Frying and Early Death: What’s the Connection?

Earlier, we mentioned that fried foods may be linked to premature death, but how did experts arrive at such a conclusion?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, the conclusion came after research authors consolidated the data from diet questionnaires and mortality of more than 100,000 women. These women enrolled in the research in the mid-1990s and the researchers followed them for roughly 2 decades. Here is what they found out:

  • Women who ate at least 1 serving of fried chicken daily are 13% more likely to prematurely die of any cause
  • They, too, are 12% more likely to die early due to heart diseases, compared to women who didn’t eat fried foods
  • Women who ate fried shellfish or fish daily were 7% more likely to prematurely die of any cause
  • And they were also 13% more likely to die of heart-related conditions than women who didn’t consume fried foods

What About Other Factors?

Since we are talking about healthy vs unhealthy cooking methods, it is only right to ascertain if other factors are involved in the study.

According to reports, the authors tried their best to control other factors that may affect the results. Eventually, they realized that the heightened risk of premature death among heavy eaters of fried foods remained even after taking into consideration some other factors, like:

What Makes Frying Unhealthy?

One reason why frying is unhealthy is that it adds more calories and fats in foods.

For instance, 100 grams of baked potato contains almost zero fats and just 93 calories, but 100 grams of French fries have 13 grams of fats and 196 calories.

If frying is unhealthy (at least according to the study discussed above), what are our options for healthy cooking methods?

healthy vs unhealthy cooking methods

The Healthy Cooking Methods

The following cooking methods are great in ensuring that the food stays flavorful without the need to add fats, such as the case with frying.

1. Baking

Baking is the process of cooking using an oven. In this method, heated air surrounds the food, cooking it slowly. It is a healthy way to cook because the gentle heat slowly evaporates the natural moisture in the food.

Although some recipes ask you to add fat such as butter or oil in the pan, baking generally does not require it. Aside from dessert, you can also bake poultry, meat, seafood, and even fruits and vegetables.

2. Browning

Before we delve deeper into the discussion of healthy vs unhealthy cooking methods, let us first tackle browning.

From the word itself, browning adds color to your food, typically, meat. However, it brings more than just color. Browning also enhances flavor and gives you a delicious crust and enticing aroma.

There are several ways to brown food, and all of them are considered as healthy alternatives to frying, too:

  • Sautéeing, also called gisa, sautéing is the process of cooking food in small amounts of oil or water over direct heat.
  • Grilling, or ihaw, means to cook food on a rack over direct fire.
  • Broiling is the method of cooking food under direct heat.

Remember that sauteing, grilling, and broiling is not just meant to brown food, they are also cooking methods on their own. Additionally, broiling and grilling allow oil from the food to drip, helping you get rid of unnecessary fat before consumption.

3. Braising

Braising is an effective method of tenderizing meat. You braise food by using little water or broth and cooking it over the stove or inside the oven. You can also call braising, stewing.

Most of the time, you brown the meat first before braising it. Also, in most recipes, you can use the water or broth as the savory sauce of the meal.

4. Poaching

If you want to get rid of unhealthy cooking methods, you can try poaching as it is also a healthy alternative. In this process, you simmer the meat in water or flavored broth. When poaching, place the meat in an appropriately-sized pan with cover and just use minimal water.

5. Roasting

Roasting is almost similar to baking, but typically it uses higher temperatures. You can use baking sheets or pans to allow the food’s natural fats to drip down. However, try not to overcook as it may remove all the food’s moisture and make it dry.

6. Steaming

One of the simplest cooking methods is steaming. In this process, you place the food over a perforated basket above a simmering liquid. Most of the time, plain water is enough, but to add more flavor, some people add seasonings to the water.

What Does a Balanced Diet Look Like?

Healthy Food Preparation Tips

Even though we’re discussing healthy vs unhealthy cooking methods, we must also consider other things about preparation. Below are some tips to make your meals healthier:

  • Don’t overcook vegetables. This is because they may lose some of their color, flavor, and nutrients. Just cook them until they are “tender-crisp.”
  • Consider skinless poultry for your meals.
  • Observe the meat for visible fat, and as much as possible remove them before cooking.
  • When using canned meat, seafood, and vegetable, drain them to remove the oil and fat.
  • Try to avoid using salt. Instead, consider herbs and spices to season food.

Key Takeaways

Knowing the healthy and unhealthy cooking methods is an important part of healthy eating. You may be using the best ingredients, but you may be unknowingly adding unnecessary fat to your dishes while cooking. Consider the above-mentioned cooking methods for your next meals as they are healthier options. Use them to make nutritious and highly flavorful dishes.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources

Fried foods linked to earlier death
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fried-foods-linked-to-earlier-death
Accessed July 23, 2020

Healthy-cooking techniques: Boost flavor and cut calories
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/healthy-cooking/art-20049346
Accessed July 23, 2020

Healthier Cooking Methods
https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_465750.pdf
Accessed July 23, 2020

Cooking Foods with Dry Heat
https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-Food-Preparation/Food-Dictionary–Cooking-Foods-with-Dry-Heat-Methods.aspx
Accessed July 23, 2020

Nutrient losses and gains during frying: a review
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9713586/
Accessed July 23, 2020

Potato, baked, NFS
https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/786981/nutrients
Accessed July 23, 2020

Potato, french fries, from fresh, fried
https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/787059/nutrients
Accessed July 23, 2020

Picture of the author
Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. on Jul 25, 2020
Medically reviewed by Chris Icamen
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