There are a lot of common features between art and cooking; people working in these spheres may produce totally different results even using the same materials, and this is why practical skills are so significant. When it comes to cooking, it is necessary to remember that it is wrong to assess the quality of food-based only on its gustatory qualities. Apart from that, it is extremely important to consider the ways of processing food products that were used and estimate whether they have helped to maintain nutrients and vitamins that are in vegetables, fruit, meat, and fish. It is common knowledge that people who are professionals in this field and work at restaurants have to be aware of different methods of processing food products that can help to retain their hale and cook the food that will be free from harmful substances and will benefit people’s health. Nevertheless, the rules and tips that allow cooking healthy food can be applied during domestic food preparation as well.
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Types of Nutrients Found in Alimentary Products
As it is clear from the laws of nature that all living creatures live in accordance with, each organism needs to be provided with food in order to experience physical development and be strong enough to survive yield progeny, and be able to protect young ones as long as possible. In order to fulfil these tasks, living creatures need nutrients that can be found in different types of alimentary products. Speaking about nutrients, we mean a range of components providing the organism with energy and allowing its cells to multiply. There is a range of nutrients that can be found in products that we regularly use while preparing food, and different cooking techniques may destroy nutrients or help to preserve them. Speaking about the latter, it is necessary to define and provide insight into the most important types of nutrients that can be found in alimentary products that we use. Thus, there are six types of them.
The first group includes proteins that help to fulfil essential functions of the human body; apart from being an important source of energy, they help to improve muscle mass. As for the particular products that contain a lot of protein, they include meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, and buttermilk.
The second type of nutrients that are important for the human body is represented by such substances as water. The latter also allows the organism to develop; apart from that, it plays an essential role because it helps to provide cells of the human body with nutrients of other types (“Australian dietary guidelines,” 2013).
The next type of nutrients is fat. Aside from this term, these nutrients are also referred to as triglycerides. Fats are supposed to be one of the primary sources of energy in the human body. Consumption of these nutrients may have both positive and negative influences on people’s health as fats can be found in junk food and in food that is supposed to be wholesome such as meat, nuts, and dairy products (“Nuts, health, and kids,” 2015).
Carbohydrates are also supposed to be an important source of energy for the organism. Speaking about this group of nutrients, it is necessary to understand that they can be divided into subgroups based on their structure and the impact that they have on the human body and its functions. For instance, large carbohydrates that are supposed to have a positive influence on people’s health can be found in chicken liver, cereal crops such as wheat and oat, bean cultures, fruit, and vegetables. As for the products containing a lot of simple carbohydrates, they include burnt sugar, chocolate, cookies, bananas, grapes, wheat bread, and rice.
Minerals also remain important nutrients that can be found in different alimentary products that we consume. The latter may contain a wide range of minerals that are divided into two large groups: trace minerals and macrominerals. As for the former, they need to be taken in relatively small amounts unlike the latter.
Vitamins are chemical substances that are extremely significant for bodily functions. Not all of them are produced by the human body and this is why it is necessary to maintain their level in alimentary products while cooking (Combs Jr & McClung, 2016, p. 3). Despite their importance with regard to metabolism that occurs in the human body, they do not present an additional source of energy. Nowadays, we single out about thirteen vitamins and vitamin groups that can be carried in the human body with the help of food and even sunlight. The lack of a certain vitamin is related to the occurrence of specific diseases; for instance, deficiency of vitamin C causes scorbutus. It is known that various cooking methods may have a different influence on vitamin levels in the products. Thus, there are vitamins that are the most likely to be destroyed during heat processing; they include vitamin C and B5.
Speaking about vitamins, it is important to understand that they may change their properties or even be destroyed under the influence of a few factors such as air, water, high temperature, sunlight, the presence of microorganisms. Considering this, it is necessary to follow specific recommendations while cooking.
Popular Ways of Cooking and their Influence on Nutritional Properties
Speaking about rules that can be used in order to cook healthier food, it is necessary to review the basic techniques and activities that are applied by common people who cook for themselves and for their children every day. In fact, cooking can be really called an art because it involves a wide range of processes used to turn raw ingredients into ready dishes. Also, cooking techniques can often be regarded as a mirror of culture together with language, traditions, and beliefs shared by groups of people living in a particular territory (Symons, 2014). In fact, the most common domestic food preparation methods can differ drastically in distant countries. Apart from that, the choice of methods depends on the skills and individual preferences that people have. Despite the fact that preferred methods can be extremely different, it is necessary to say that the majority of the most popular cooking activities involve the use of heat processing. As for the effect that the latter produces on nutrients and vitamins in alimentary products, it depends upon the particular cooking method that is used.
In general, the most common cooking techniques used even by those people who are not professionals in this field include the following ones listed below.
Baking – this method remains one of the most popular ways of cooking due to a wide range of advantages that it involves. This method is related to the use of prolonged heat processing. Also, it is necessary to say that this very method can be combined with other ones; for instance, it is possible to bake alimentary products that have been already boiled. This cooking technique can be applied to the use of different types of equipment. If we speak about cooking at home, baking is supposed to involve the use of oven. Nevertheless, in other cases, people may bake food using hot cinders. There are a lot of types of alimentary products that can be baked; they include fish, meat, vegetables, and cereal foods. Speaking about modern human society, it is necessary to say that people have an opportunity to use a lot of different types of oven. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that equipment that is used during cooking may also have a significant influence on the results and retaining the hale of products used.
In general, baking is supposed to be a good way of cooking as it usually helps to retain nutrients that are in the products. In particular, this method of cooking seems to be great when it comes to working with meat and fish. The latter contains a lot of proteins and a wide range of vitamins such as B1, B2, and B3. If we speak about proteins and the effect that heat processing has on their properties, it is necessary to say that it can increase their accessibility. Apart from that, particular practices such as baking in foil are essential when there is a need to cook toothsome food without the use of additional oil or marinade sauce. Thus, baking in foil is the method of cooking that helps to retain the aroma and taste of the products and subject them to heat processing without making the food too greasy.
Boiling – this method involves cooking products in hot water or other liquids. Although the temperature of boiling water seems to be the same, it may take more or less time to boil various alimentary products (it depends upon the particular chemical substances that they consist of); it remains one of the most popular methods of cooking used at home as it does not require any special skills and it is quite hard to spoil products while boiling (Chen, 2015). Besides, it is popular due to the fact that it is applicable to the majority of products; for instance, it is possible to boil fish, meat, and different products used as accompaniments. Although there is a wide range of strong points associated with this method of cooking, one weakness that it has is able to make them almost insignificant: during cooking, a great part of vitamins from the products are carried to water used for boiling. This rule applies to specific categories of vitamins such as one of B group and vitamin C. Therefore, the use of boiling in order to cook meat and fish can not be regarded as the best choice.
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There are some practices that can be applied in order to minimize the loss of nutrients and vitamins from the products that are being boiled. To begin with, it is important to remember that this loss also depends upon the time of cooking; therefore, it may be necessary to shorten it. In order to do that, it is possible to cut the products that you are going to boil into smaller pieces. At the same time, if there is a need to boil vegetables, it would be better to avoid peeling them as the skin can minimize the loss of vitamins and nutrients. Apart from that, it is more appropriate to put products into the water that is already boiling than to start cooking in cold or warm water. Anyway, even these methods cannot help to maintain all the vitamins in the products. Due to that, it may be necessary to use this method of cooking when you need to cook soup or jelly and the water left after boiling will be used as well.
Coddling is one of the methods related to boiling; it involves cooking food on a slow fire. On the one hand, this method is quite popular because it allows people to cook and pay attention to other things simultaneously. Therefore, there is no need to worry about the products as they are unlikely to become overcooked. On the other hand, coddling takes a lot of time and this is why more nutrients and vitamins are going to lose their useful properties. Considering the information about lengthy heat processing, it is more preferable to apply this method when cooking soups or other dishes that involve the use of stock. Besides, leaving the cooking pot uncovered is another mistake that increases the loss of nutrients and vitamins (“Tips to retain nutrients when cooking food,” 2016).
Steaming – the method that involves the use of steam. In order to cook food with the help of this method, it is necessary to use special kitchen equipment such as steaming pans made of different materials. This method is supposed to be the most appropriate as it follows from the opinions of those specializing in nutrition science. In order to cook with the help of this method, it is necessary to boil water and use steam; the products are supposed to have no direct contact with water. Speaking about this particular method of cooking used at home, it is important to mention that it has a lot of advantages over boiling. To begin with, it is almost impossible to overcook products when you are using this method. Besides, steaming allows one to retain more nutrients and vitamins than boiling (Spritzler, 2017). Although it is believed that eating raw products may be more beneficial for human health, there can also be unwanted substances in these products. Thus, steaming helps to neutralize them without destroying many nutrients and vitamins. Although many people suppose that steaming allows cooking only insipid food, there are certain recommendations helping to use this method and cook food maintaining both taste and nutrients. For instance, it is important to use a little water, cut products into pieces of the same size, and cover them with a lid.
Stewing – the method of cooking with the use of water or other liquids on a slow fire. With the help of this method, it is possible to cook a lot of dishes that are supposed to be healthy food as well. Almost all types of products can be stewed and this method does not involve the destruction of many nutrients. Nevertheless, the benefits that stewed products may bring to human health depend upon additional ingredients that are used during cooking; thus, people may put a lot of oil or wheat flour in sauce and it does not seem to be helpful. To minimize the loss of vitamins and nutrients during stewing, it is necessary to use a little water and avoid using too much fat.
Curing in smoke – the method involving food processing with the use of smoke and spices. Such a technique allows us to prevent different types of products from spoilage but it cannot be regarded as one helping to cook healthy food. The question concerning useful properties of smoked products is disputable but there are also certain recommendations on how to maintain nutrients in such food. Importantly, it is necessary to use only good equipment and avoid cooking for a long time.
Frying – the method of cooking without water that involves the use of oil. Such a method is extremely popular as it allows us to cook fast and maintain the taste of products. Despite that, this method does not help to cook healthy food, it causes the loss of the majority of vitamins, and such food may prevent the digestive tract from proper functioning (Bradly, 2013). High temperature causes destruction of such nutrients like proteins, B vitamins, vitamin C and A. Frying is supposed to be the worst cooking method and this is why it is better to avoid using it. Nevertheless, to retain certain nutrients, it is necessary to use a small amount of oil as possible and shorten cooking time.
Canning – method of preserving products with the use of jars and thermic treatment (Boz & Erdoğdu, 2015, p. 157). Specific practices used while canning may vary in different countries but there are a few rules helping to use this technique and maintain as many nutrients and vitamins in canned products as possible. To begin with, canning is supposed to be a good method of cooking as it usually helps to retain useful properties of products (especially in the case of vegetables). Thus, pickling and fermentation are believed to be techniques that do not only help to maintain useful properties of vegetables but also increase them. For instance, fermented cabbage contains more vitamin C than raw cabbage. There is a variety of techniques related to canning that can be used at home; although it is often impossible to eat such food right after cooking, such techniques allow to prevent B vitamins and vitamin C from being destroyed. In order to ensure that vitamins and nutrients are maintained, it is necessary to use proper equipment and avoid the use of very high temperatures while canning. What is more, using appropriate headspace while canning also helps to maintain vitamins and other nutrients.
In the end, there are many methods of cooking applied at home but many of them may decrease the levels of nutrients and vitamins in food products. In order to avoid it, it is necessary to pay attention to such methods as baking in foil, canning, steaming, and stewing as they allow to retain useful properties of products (Mota et al., 2016). Apart from that, it is important to remember that the most appropriate method should be chosen with regard to the specific product that needs to be cooked; for instance, in case of products containing a lot of water-soluble vitamins (such as meat and fish) it is necessary to prefer steaming over boiling, and this principle can be applied in other cases as well.
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Headspace requirements. (2017). Web.
Mota, C., Nascimento, A. C., Santos, M., Delgado, I., Coelho, I., Rego, A.,… & Castanheira, I. (2016). The effect of cooking methods on the mineral content of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), amaranth (Amaranthus sp.) and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 49(1), 57-64.
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