The vast majority of advice you read about nutrition is focused on the foods you should eat (and the ones you should avoid) to achieve your optimal health.
You don’t often hear about the healthiest ways to COOK those foods to boost their health benefits… nor do you hear much about preparation methods that could destroy those benefits and increase your risk of chronic disease.
However, the truth is that how you cook your foods can often be MORE important to your health than simply what foods you’re eating. In fact, many of the ill-effects we experience with our health and rising rates of chronic disease are directly influenced by how our foods are prepared.
For example, my last article in the US Wellness Meats Newsletter (Avoid This Fiery Foursome To Optimize Your Life) focused on compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These compounds form when muscle meats are exposed to high temperatures – especially when meat is charred.
HCAs are strongly carcinogenic and can turn a 100% healthy cut of beef into a food that could increase your risk for chronic disease. So, if you like your meat well done that’s fine… but try to get it there without charring the outside.
Today, we continue our examination of the dangerous byproducts that can form as a result of high-heat cooking… and how you can minimize your risks. In this article, we cover two more of “The Fiery Foursome” health-harming compounds that can result from cooking at high temperature:
- Lipid Oxidation Products (LOPs)
So, let’s begin with…
Lipid Oxidation Products (LOPs): Avoid these Radical Robbers
Have you ever poured a few tablespoons of oil into a pan, turned the heat medium-high… and then forgotten about it until you notice popping sounds, smoke creeping up and a rancid odor filling the kitchen?
I think we’ve all done that more times than we’d like to admit. Any time it happens, be sure to toss the oil the oil (don’t breathe the fumes!) and start over… because you’ve just created DNA-damaging compounds called lipid oxidation products (LOPs).
This is especially true when it comes to unstable polyunsaturated, omega-6-rich oils, like vegetable, corn and soybean oil. You should already know to avoid those oils in the first place. But the fact is that even the healthiest cooking oils and fats can be damaged by high heat and age.
And the LOPs that form as oils break down can generate free radicals that steal electrons from healthy cells and cause a chain reaction of oxidation. They have been shown to promote inflammation, damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and more.
Your best protection comes from choosing healthy fats that are more stable and do not readily form lipid oxidation products (LOPs). In general, saturated fats and oils with high “smoke points” are your best choices for cooking and sautéing, as they do not easily break down to form LOPs. Recommendations include, grass-fed butter, ghee, tallow, lard, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Next, let’s cover another dangerous by-product that can result from high-heat cooking…
Acrylamide: Avoid this Dangerous Burner Bandit
When plant-based foods that are rich in carbohydrates and low in protein are cooked at high temperatures (higher than 248 F), it can cause a carcinogenic and neurotoxic compound to form, known as acrylamide.
So just how serious is acrylamide exposure?
In 2005, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that acrylamide in foods is a public health concern, noting that it may be responsible for up to one third of all cancers cause by diet!
Here are just a few reasons to avoid this cooking byproduct:
- Acrylamide & Your Body’s Antioxidant Artillery: Acrylamide reduces your body’s production of phase 2 detoxifying enzymes (including glutathione) which help to neutralize toxins and disarm carcinogens.
- Acrylamide Doubles Ovarian Cancer Risk: A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology found that women who ate one portion of potato chips per day (40 mcg acrylamide) had twice the risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancer as women who ate less.
- Acrylamide & Alzheimer’s: Studies have linked high levels of acrylamide to neurological damage. Brain researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York discovered that acrylamide is structurally similar to acrolein, a chemical found in increased levels in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.
- Acrylamide Increases Kidney Cancer Risk 59%: The Netherlands Cohort Study of more than 12,000 participants, evaluated acrylamide in the diet finding that those with the highest levels of exposure experienced a 59 percent higher risk of kidney cancer than those with the lowest. And every 10 mcg increase appeared to raise the risk by 10%!
So, now that you know just how serious it can be, here are…
7 Tips for Reducing Acrylamide
- Forgo the French Fries: Of course, these are not part of a healthy diet for a number of reasons, but they are also the food highest in acrylamide.
- Pass on Pretzels: Again, nothing here but refined flour and salt—as well as acrylamide.
- Skip the Chips: Potato chips and other snacks/crisps are high in acrylamide.
- Refrain from Grains: Pastries and sweet biscuits, breads, rolls and toast, as well as so-called ―healthy snack bars and other processed grain-based products contain acrylamide.
- Go Light on the Java: Acrylamide can be a byproduct of roasting the beans.
- Beware of the Tap: Believe it or not, acrylamide is often used in municipal water treatment as a coagulant to clarify drinking water. And while the amount in drinking water is small (just a fraction of the amount in fast food French fries). It is still best to drink spring water (in safe BPA-free bottles) or opt for purified tap water.
- Supply an Acrylamide Antidote: Recent research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that several nutrients have been found to guard against the damaging effects of acrylamide— including those in tea (polyphenols), red wine (resveratrol) and garlic (diallyl trisulfide).
The most important thing to remember is that it is not only what you eat… but how you prepare your food that will determine whether it promotes – or detracts – from your health and longevity.
The great news is that there are tools, techniques and guidelines, so you can maximize the health benefits and nutrients in your food… while avoiding the burner bandits that can form. So you can cook safely and … deliciously!
Need a little help planning your keto-friendly holiday spread? Kelley has put together a free guide – Keto Holidays – that will help you keep the joy and delight in your holiday meals… while leaving the unwanted carbs aside. Inside, you’ll find 20+ keto-friendly recipes (including each one mentioned in the article above), all nutritionally analyzed and containing 5 grams of net carbs (or less!). Grab your free copy here…