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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Eight reasons to try a pressure cooker

Pressure cooking is a fast, cost-effective, and healthy way to cook a variety of foods, including dried beans, brown rice and other whole grains, soups, and meats. If you have not yet discovered the benefits of using a pressure cooker, here are 8 reasons to buy and use one.

1. Pressure cooking saves time. Cooking natural foods is often time-consuming, but pressure cooking slashes cooking times. For example, cook brown rice in 15 minutes, dried beans in 12 minutes, and lentils in 7 minutes.

2. Pressure cooking saves money. After the initial purchase, you can buy less-costly dried beans instead of canned, although you might keep canned for emergencies. The energy savings from shorter cooking times means lower gas or electric bills.

3. Pressure-cooked foods taste delicious. Since very little steam escapes during the cooking process, maximum flavor is preserved. Pressure-cooked meat is moist and tender, and dried beans are more flavorful than canned, which sometimes have an aftertaste.

4. Pressure-cooked foods are healthy. Because of the closed environment and shorter cooking times, more nutrients are retained than in open cooking. Dried beans are less processed than canned, and they avoid potential BPA that is sometimes found in canned food.

5. Pressure cooking is safer than you think. Although cooking with one requires a learning curve, pressure cookers today are safer than those used by our parents and grandparents.

6. Pressure cookers are helpful for preparedness. They can be used outdoors over an open flame. So, they can be used camping or in an emergency, and their cooking efficiency is especially helpful if wood or fuel is scarce.

7. Baby food and dog food can be made in a pressure cooker. These typically store-bought foods can be made cheaper and healthier than their pre-packaged counterparts.

8. Pressure cookers have withstood the test of time. Like cast iron cooking, pressure cookers have been used for generations. Unlike cast iron, however, new technology has truly improved pressure cooking’s safety and efficiency.

Tips to use the healthiest cooking methods to improve your wellness

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:

http://www.naturalnews.com/039404_microwave_…

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.

The chemistry of healthy cooking oils

The use of plant oils rather than lard, butter and other animal-based fats universally eliminates the saturated fat that we would otherwise consume. The way that the human body processes saturated fats ends up forcing the body to build its own low-density cholesterol, so avoiding these types of fats is an exceptionally good idea. With this in mind, not all plants are created equal. Neither are the various oils made by pressing these plants.

Vegetable and plant oils are liquid at room temperature, because unsaturated fats have a lower melting point than saturated fats. The reason for this is chemical. Saturated fat is called saturated, because every carbon-carbon double bond along the spine of the fat molecule has had all of its double bonds removed and a number of hydrogen atoms added. Simply enough, it’s totally saturated with hydrogen. Though normally perfectly safe to consume, vegetable oils can be chemically converted to saturated fats through a process known as hydrogenation, literally the addition of hydrogen to the fat. If this process is done part way so that only some of the double bonds have been saturated, we end up with partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats. Keep an eye out for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils on the ingredient lists of foods. They’re just as bad as, if not worse than, animal fats.

Smoke Points and Flavor: The Heart of the Cooking Oil Search

When purchasing straight plant oils, there are two primary factors to consider. First, every oil will taste different. Second, each oil has a different smoke point, the temperature at which the oil will begin to smoke, sputter and denature into something decidedly less than delicious. These two properties influence how each oil is to be used.

A number of popular oils, a description of their flavors, and their smoke points are listed below.

  • Best used when stir frying, almond oil tastes much like the parent nut. Its smoke point is at approximately 420°F.
  • Similar in flavor to olive oil, avocado oil is best used in stir frying, searing and other applications that require a high temperature. With a smoke point of 520°F, avocado oil is among the most robust plant oils on the planet.
  • Olive oil has a rich, light-bodied taste and has a wide range of applications due to the pressing system placed upon the oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of about 320°F, while progressive pressings each have a higher smoke point than the one before it. For its part, extra light olive oil has a smoke point of 468°F.
  • Sesame oil has two styles: a light and nutty Middle Eastern variety and a dark and toasted Asian variety. Though a tasty addition to any skillet cooking up meats, it is also a superlative salad dressing base. Its smoke point is at 410°F.

The various cooking oils present on the market each have their own quirks working for them. Varying flavors, smoke points and fat profiles bring about a myriad of uses that the savvy consumer should always stay abreast of.

Bear in mind, however, that plant oils can be corrupted by modern industrial processes. Partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils are, in the end, no better for the consumer than animal fats and defeat the purpose of plant oils in the first place. By applying due diligence, however, the savvy consumer can enjoy these various oils without sacrificing health to do it.

Many common cooking spices may contain bug parts, rodent hairs

Hiding inside your pepper grinder and cumin shaker could be things like rodent hairs, bug parts and even salmonella, claims a new report recently put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Entitled “Pathogens and Filth in Spices,” the report alleges that up to 12 percent of all U.S. spice imports may contain hidden insect filth, while up to 7 percent may contain bacterial contaminants, an obvious push by the agency to further legitimize irradiating cooking spices.

According to CNN, the agency decided to launch an investigation into the contents of imported cooking spices as part of a general assessment of their safety risks. The agency itself says the endeavor was hatched in response to growing concerns about the effectiveness of current safety control measures for spices. But based on the findings of the report, spices are generally safe and pose a minimal risk to human health.

Nevertheless, the FDA is convinced that spices may be dangerous, categorizing them as a “systemic challenge” due to the fact that they generally contain about twice as much “filth” as other kinds of imported food. And yet, based on 37 years’ worth of records looked at by the agency, there have only been 14 outbreaks ever in the entire world that have been linked to spices or seasonings, resulting in fewer than 2,000 human illnesses and 128 hospitalizations.

“We would agree ready-to-eat spices should be clean and meet FDA standards and be pathogen-free,” stated Cheryl Deem, Executive Director of the American Spice Trade Association, to CNN about the findings. “We did find it really interesting that the FDAsaid they were going to use this report to develop a plan to reduce illness, but if you look at the data we don’t think that’s a significant problem. That’s a small number of illnesses.”

FDA report fails to distinguish between ready-to-eat and raw spices

Despite its thorough analysis on imported spices, the FDA apparently failed to distinguish in test results whether or not the spices it looked at were in “ready-to-eat” form or in raw form. Ready-to-eat spices have already been cleaned overseas prior to import, while raw spices may still need to processed. It is typically raw spices from non-organic sources that contain the most “filth,” a fact that the FDA should have addressed in its report.

It may seem curious that the FDA appears to have made a mountain out of a molehill concerning spice safety, that is until you consider the fact that the FDA has been trying to amass more control over the food supply for years. Even in its new report, the FDA admits that the agency’s goal is to utilize more of the provisions outlined in the Food Safety Modernization Act, the infamous regulatory overhaul that harmonizes American law with the international Codex Alimentarius food code.