Most people know that roasting, broiling, baking and grilling are preferred cooking methods when it comes to cutting calories to achieve weight loss. That’s because high-temperature, dry-heat cooking methods — compared to frying and sautéing– typically use less fats such as butter and oil, which easily rack up calories.
However, especially when it comes to cooking meats, these high-temperature dry-heat methods may be causing more harm than good. The problem is the formation of potentially harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products (or AGEs). AGEs are also found in the body as byproducts of metabolism. Research suggests that excess AGEs promote oxidation and inflammation, which lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease and an increased risk of cancer.
It’s a cumulative effect. That’s why the elderly tend to have higher levels compared to the younger population. While there are other contributors to AGEs such as smoking, diet plays a major role. Beef, aged and high fat cheeses, poultry, pork, fish and eggs top the list. Nuts and oils have lower amounts of AGEs especially when compared to butter, cream cheese, margarine and mayonnaise.
It’s not only high-protein and high-fat foods that are prone to AGEs. Carbohydrates made with added fats and baked at high temperatures like crackers, chips and cookies are culprits. Grilled chicken, seared salmon and toasted marshmallows are also on the watch list.
Foods that are boiled, steamed, stewed, poached, braised, microwaved or marinated in acidic liquids are lowest in AGEs. Grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, milk, fresh cheeses, yogurt and (untoasted) bread when prepared without added fats are low-AGE foods, even after cooking.
Recently scientists discovered that we absorb about 10 percent of AGEs consumed, which can add up over a lifetime. That’s why food choices and cooking methods should be carefully considered to decrease the risk of a significant accumulation and prevent disease.
1. Prepare more vegetarian meals and balance your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
2. Use acidic compounds like lemon and vinegar to marinate meat, poultry and seafood.
3. Cook slowly on low heat– even when making scrambled eggs!
4. Choose these 5 cooking methods– steam, stew, poach, braise and microwave.
5. Avoid buying processed foods and cook at home more often.