World Food Day 2023: 7 Cooking Mistakes You Should Avoid

World Food Day 2023: 7 Cooking Mistakes You Should Avoid

Food profoundly influences our mental and physical well-being. The saying goes, ‘As the food, so the mind

Dr Hansaji YogendraUpdated: Saturday, October 14, 2023, 01:21 PM IST
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Food profoundly influences our mental and physical well-being. The saying goes, ‘As the food, so the mind. Even our scriptures say, ‘Annam Brahhma’. Food is God. In fact, eating well and eating right is a form of self-respect because your diet acts as the fuel that propels you to carry out your day-to-day functions. 

Ahead of World Food Day, let’s delve into the crucial role meal preparation techniques and the choice of appropriate cookware play in shaping our health.

Cooking Mistakes

Uneven Vegetable Cuts

One crucial aspect of cooking veggies is achieving uniformity in your cuts. When cut into uneven sizes, some pieces may end up overcooked while others remain undercooked, leading to nutrient loss and an unevenly cooked dish. To ensure perfectly cooked veggies, cut them in uniform sizes. 

Overcrowding the Pan

When you’re cooking a large batch of vegetables, try and avoid overcrowding the pan. Because overcrowding not only affects even cooking but can also cause vegetables to release moisture, resulting in the loss of water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Give veggies some space to breathe. If necessary, cook them in batches.

Skipping Blanching

Certain vegetables, like broccoli or cauliflower benefit from a quick blanching step before cooking. Blanching preserves their vibrant colour and texture while retaining essential water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C and potassium. Don’t skip this step if you want your vegetables to be at their best.

Wrong Cooking Methods

Using an inappropriate cooking method can lead to overcooking or undercooking, causing nutrient loss. For instance, boiling vegetables excessively can deplete their water-soluble vitamins. Therefore, try to match the cooking method to the vegetable type. Grilling can enhance the sweetness and smoky flavour of vegetables like brinjal or zucchini, while roasting can bring out the earthy flavour in carrots or beets. So, make sure to choose the right cooking method depending on the vegetable you are cooking. 

Dull Knives

Dull knives require more pressure, potentially damaging your ingredients and leading to nutrient loss. Especially when working with delicate greens like spinach or kale, a sharp knife ensures that you preserve their nutrients while preparing them.

Overcooking

Overcooking vegetables can turn them into mush, robbing them of their flavour and nutritional value. Watch your vegetables closely and cook them only until they reach a tender-crisp stage. This preserves their texture and flavour, ensuring they remain nutritious.

Incorrect Heat Levels

Different vegetables have different heat requirements for optimal cooking. Delicate varieties like green beans need high heat for a short time to maintain their crispness, while denser root vegetables require lower heat and longer cooking to become tender. Adjust your heat settings accordingly.

Adopting Healthy Cooking Techniques:

Cooking methods can make or break the nutritional value of your dishes. Here are some techniques that can help you prepare healthier meals:

1. Steaming

Steaming is a gentle cooking method that preserves the vitamins and minerals in your food. It involves cooking food over boiling water, which helps retain its natural flavours and nutrients.

2. Grilling and Broiling 

Grilling and broiling allow excess fats to drip away from the food, making them excellent choices for lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and vegetables. However, it’s crucial to avoid excessive charring, as it can produce potentially harmful compounds.

3. Stir-Frying

Floriana

Stir-frying with minimal oil ensures that vegetables retain their vibrant colours and nutrients. Use a variety of colourful veggies to increase the nutritional diversity of your meals.

4. Baking and Roasting

Baking and roasting vegetables and lean meats can enhance their flavours without adding excessive fats. Season with herbs and spices for added taste without resorting to heavy sauces.

Avoid or Minimise Microwave

Microwaves heat the outer layers, altering food’s molecular structure, potentially causing nutrient loss and uneven heating due to uneven electromagnetic wave distribution. When using a microwave, it’s advisable to avoid plastic containers and instead use glassware or lead-free ceramics.

Right Vessels to Cook food

The choice of cookware can also influence the nutritional value of your meals. Here are some tips for selecting the right cooking vessels:

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel pans are durable and don’t react with acidic or alkaline foods. They’re excellent for searing and browning without compromising food quality.

Cast iron: Cast iron cookware retains and evenly distributes heat, making it perfect for slow cooking and simmering. It can also fortify your food with a small amount of iron, especially when cooking acidic dishes.

Glass and Ceramic: These materials are great for baking and roasting. They don’t leach chemicals into your food and are easy to clean.

Non-Stick Pans: Non-stick pans require less oil, making them suitable for low-fat cooking. However, choose high-quality non-stick cookware to avoid potential health concerns associated with low-quality coatings.

Utensils to avoid: Certain cooking vessels can affect the nutritional value of your food and may harm your health. Avoid using aluminium cookware, as it may react with acidic foods, leading to aluminium leaching into your meals. Similarly, copper cookware can release toxic compounds when heated, posing health risks.

(Dr Hansaji Yogendra is the director of The Yoga Institute and the author of ‘Sattvik Cooking: Modern Avatars of Vedic Foods’ among other books)

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