Are some vegetables healthier raw, but others healthier when cooked?

Cooking affects the fibers within your veggies, and while these fibers are often better for your body when raw, certain veggies’ nutrients are actually enhanced when cooked (particularly steamed). Kale fibers, for example, bind with bile acids in the gut to increase excretion of these acids, which in turn has a cholesterol-lowering effect. Both raw and cooked kale do this, but the binding is more powerful with steamed kale. Broccoli, conversely, is better for you raw or lightly steamed for two to three minutes due to the glucosinolates it contains. A coveted class fo compounds, glucosinolates help protect your stomach against bacteria, but a significant amount leaches out of broccoli very easily when cooked. Since most people prefer their veggies cooked, however, experts recommend steaming – it preserves more nutrients than other cooking methods while delivering a satisfying, crispy bite.

Why do we only have access to canned, frozen or dried beans? Why don’t the markets provide fresh beans?

Some types of beans (including kidney, black and navy) are not harvested until they have completely matured and dried out, which is why you will not find them fresh. It’s worth noting that most beans – especially kidney beans – should always be cooked before eating since they contain naturally occurring toxins that become neutral and harmless after cooking. In early summer, look for fresh fava, pinto and lima beans, as well as fresh green garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) at farmers’ markets, specialty shops and ethnic grocery stores. Fresh beans are perishable and will keep well for a few days when stored in the refrigerator, while shelled beans can be kept frozen for up to six months before being cooked.

Splash in the Pan

Whether it’s sautéed vegetables or a salad with dressing, chances are you’ll be reaching for cooking oil. Although your body needs a little fat for mental agility and absorption of vitamins, it’s the type of oil you use that really counts. Margarine, butter, palm oil, and coconut oil are hydrogenated — the primary source of unhealthy trans–fats. Better choices are canola and olive — both are loaded with beneficial omega–3 and omega–6. When mixing oil in your next dish, keep these tips in mind:

  • Flavor: Oils should complement the dish. Macadamia, walnut, olive, peanut, and sesame add a lot of flavor, so they’re best suited for dressings, dips, and stir fries. Low to medium flavored oils like canola, grape seed, sunflower, and vegetable supplement the dish, but don’t overpower it.
  • Quality: High nutritional quality refers to the percentage of essential fatty acids in the oil, unsaturated versus saturated fats, and blood cholesterol impact. Flaxseed and canola are excellent sources of omega–3 fatty acids, and are low in saturated fats.
  • Usage: The lower the oil’s smoking point, the lower the temperature has to be when the oil burns. Sesame oil, for instance, has a low smoking point; others such as canola, corn, and grapeseed are higher and don’t burn as easily.

Over-processed

From the drive–thru to prepackaged dinners to school lunches to even infant formula, processed foods are everywhere. And while it’s clear a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supports health, more research is concluding that processed foods do the opposite.

Experts warn against the dangers of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a primary ingredient in processed foods. Visceral fat, which scientists say forms in response to high doses of glutamate in the system, is thought to be a cause of hypertension, obesity, insomnia, and diabetes. And a recent study found that a diet high in processed foods causes depression and inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease. What can you do?

  • To minimize your exposure, cut down on eating out. There are currently no regulations on MSG labeling, so restaurants don’t have to fess up. You can remove this unknown variable by dining in.
  • Stay as close to the original state as possible. An organic apple from a local farmer maintains its raw integrity, while individual packs of applesauce are farther from their purest form; a store-bought apple pie is even farther. Keep your plate full of mostly natural earth-grown foods.
  • Opt for frozen produce over canned — which usually has added salt or syrup. Sub–zero crops are picked at their ripest and flash-frozen to retain nutrients, without additives.

All about Elsie

While a good percentage of our food supply is global, the cow’s milk you drink hails from America, probably from a local dairy. Here’s what you’ll find in the carton.

Varied fat content

In its unadulterated state, milk has no more than 4 percent fat. Farmers used to simply skim off the high-fat cream layer than naturally rose to the top to make low-fat milk. Now dairies use centrifuges to spin off the fat, resulting in milk of varying fat levels.

Processing

About 95 percent of U.S. milk is pasteurized (quickly heated, then cooled to destroy bacteria and microorganisms). Most milk is also homogenized to prevent fat molecules from separating, keeping it smooth and creamy.

Hormones

Are the hormones in milk safe to drink? It depends on who you ask. All cows generate natural bGH, a hormone that helps them produce milk. Some dairies inject their milking cows with genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH, also known as rbST) to boost production. According to the Federal Drug Administration, milk from these cows is safe. But the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures has said synthetic hormones may be linked with an increased risk of certain cancers. It also suggests more research is needed. Concerned? Buy organic milk or milk labeled “GMO-free”.

Organic

About 3 percent of America’s milk is organic. USDA rules require that organic cows be kept on pasture at least half the year, so they can obtain plenty of fresh grass. Organic cows may not be treated with synthetic hormones to boost milk production.

Can I cook with instant nonfat dry milk?

Absolutely! Add ¼ cup instant nonfat dry milk per 1 cup of fluid milk when making biscuits, muffins, pancakes, yeast breads and cakes to boost calcium and protein; add 2/3 cup nonfat dry milk per 1 pound ground meat when making meatloaf and meatballs (they’ll hold their shape better).

The New Vegetarians

Whether it’s to save the earth, money or their waistlines, more Americans are cutting back on meat. Should you elevate vegetables from sidekick to leading role? Here’s all you need to know to make meatless eating work for you.

Vegetarianism is having a moment

When former President Bill Clinton showed up to daughter Chelsea’s wedding looking slim and trim, he credited his strict vegetarian diet for his transformation. Meanwhile, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres recently gave up animal products, publicly declaring herself a vegan.

These two high-profit Americans have plenty of company in the meatless movement. Sure, countless others still hold onto childhood Brussels sprout biases; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 26.3 percent of adults eat vegetables three or more times per day. But signs suggest that the number of herbivores in the U.S. is on the rise. For example, last November the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics issued its first-eve guidelines for dietitians who are counseling vegetarians. With efforts like Meatless Mondays, a campaign to cut meat consumption to improve personal and environmental health, gaining momentum, nearly 20 percent of households are eating more meatless meals, reports the Food Marketing Institute. Some cite saving money as the primary driver, but most say they’re cutting down on meat to improve their health.

Scaling back on meat won’t necessarily net you better health or a svelte body. And let’s be clear: Going meatless won’t miraculously melt off extra pounds. However, swapping plant -based foods for animal-based ones will often save you calories and fat grams, and may make meeting your goal weight easier. In general, vegetarians weigh 3 to 20 percent less than meat eaters, according to an analysis published in Nutrition Reviews. What’s more, other studies link a well-planned vegetarian diet with a lower BMI and a wealth of health benefits, including reducer risks for cancer and chronic disease. The emphasis here is on the phrase “well-planned”. If you end up substituting meat with high fat options like cheese, your health bonuses are nil.

With that, here’s some freshly picked info for exploring the veggie landscape in a way that’s healthy and delicious.

Get what you need

Afraid you won’t get enough nutrients if you cut out meat? Most lifelong carnivores feel they need meat and other animal products for god nutrition, but that’s not the case. You can get key nutrients (and promote good health) from these plant-based sources.

Nutrient: Plant-based sources
Protein: Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, nut butters, peas, whole grains and soy-based products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers)
Iron: Fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, soy products, whole wheat breads and peas.
Omega-3s: Flax and other plant sources provide some, but not enough; if you don’t’ eat fish, consider an algae-derived DHA supplement.
Calcium: Fortified soymilk, cereals and orange juice; tofu made with calcium sulfate; dried beans and peas; nuts; seeds; some greens.
Vitamin D: Fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms (especially mushrooms treated with UV light, available in supermarkets), fortified cereals.

So you call yourself a Vegetarian?

The vegetarian spectrum runs the gamut from those who eat meat occasionally to raw foodists who will not consume anything cooked above certain temps. Below, a veggie glossary, from least to most extreme.

Flexatarian (Semi-vegetarian): Eats mostly plant-based foods; occasionally eats animal products as well as fish, poultry or meat.

Pollo-vegetarian: Eats poultry, such as chicken, turkey and duck.

Pescetarian: Eats fish and seafood, but no meat.

Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: Eats dairy products and eggs.

Lacto Vegetarian: Eats dairy products.

Classic Vegetarian: Eats diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts; no meat, poultry or fish.

Vegan: Follows a strict vegetarian diet that excludes animal-derived products like butter.

Raw Foodist: Eats no plant-based foods heated above 115 to 118 degrees.