Why You Should Start Cooking

 

When your stomach starts to grumble, do you reach for a take-out menu or roll down to the nearest fast food joint to get yourself a meal? Who needs the best knives or cookware sets ? I mean who even prepares home cooked meals anymore? There are many other easier ways to subdue your grumbling tummy.

During a hectic day with your kids do you throw some microwave-fresh chicken nuggets at them and pray that they will:

1. eat more than the throw on the floor and
2. eat long enough to give you some peace and quiet?

Are you struggling to control your weight or maintain your energy levels? If these or similar conditions apply to you then you need to discover the benefits of cooking!

At first glance it may seem counterintuitive to think that cooking could simplify and enhance your life. Who has the time, right? Or maybe you do not think that you can cook good enough to produce something edible. You would be surprised to learn that there are many benefits to preparing food for yourself and others:

Health Benefits:

When you eat out you have almost no control over what you consume. Somebody else is dictating your portion sizes, food quality, and believe me when I tell you that they are more concerned with the bottom-line than your waistline. Most restaurants purchase the cheapest food available to maximize their profits.

Cheaper foods are those with a longer shelf life (high in preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and trans-fats), higher in fat (fatty cuts of meat are cheaper), and lacking in essential nutrients. When you shop for the ingredients for your food you have to final word when it comes to quality and content. People who prepare their own meals tend to have healthier diets because they eat more vegetables and fruits. In addition, they tend to purchase higher quality ingredients than you would find at a restaurant.

Financial Benefits:

When you cook your own food your body is not the only thing that gets healthier. Your bank account gets better too. Preparing your own meals allows you to avoid paying for the labor to prepare your food. For instance, did you know that you could get twice as much filet mignon if you buy it at the grocery store or butcher and cook it yourself? It is true! If you go to a nice restaurant, this delicious steak will cost between $25-80. If you go to your neighborhood supermart, you can get two quality filets for around $20.

At your grocer you can also buy foods in bulk, reducing the cost. If you are in a time crunch you can pre-prepare food on the weekend and freeze meals to re-heat later. Pay yourself to cook your meals and get your food just how you like it!

Another way that you can save money preparing your own meals is to use fresh ingredients from your garden. Tomatoes, green beans, peas, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, and many other vegetables are easy to grow and prepare. You can get plenty of seeds for just pennies over a dollar.

Time Benefits:

What kind of time benefits could you possibly get from cooking? Does it not take more time to boil water and melt butter and chop and mix and saute? Yes, but when I say time benefits, I am talking about quality time.

One of my favorite things to do with my daughters (ages 2 and 5) is to prepare a meal. We have fun chopping vegetables, mixing batters and counting out ingredients. They feel so important helping out with the cooking and it teaches them to work and acquire some skills in the kitchen for themselves.

Social Benefits:

I have yet to find a cookie recipe that just makes one cookie or a cake recipe that just makes one slice. It can be fun to share your creations with others. Bring a slice of pie to a friend and brighten their day. Cooking can be a romantic date when you prepare a meal together and share it by candle light or even in front of the television.

My wife swaps cooking nights with a neighbor. She will cook enough for both families two nights a week and another two nights our neighbor cooks for us. As a result we have become great friends with this family, my wife gets two nights off from cooking per week and it is fun to experience another cooking style. We have a lot of fun brainstorming new and interesting things to cook and we rarely have repeats. (Source: http://www.streetdirectory.com/food_editorials/cooking/cooking_tips)

Selecting fats and oils for cooking

After picking the best knives and buying the best cookware, you need a lubricant to ensure your ingredients don’t stick to your pan (unless you’re using a nonstick pan). Besides cooking spray, you have many options when it comes to selecting fats and oils for cooking.

But it’s not just a matter of choosing oils that are healthy, but also whether they stay healthy after having been cooked with.

The Stability of Cooking Oils

When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily.

When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that you definitely don’t want to be consuming.

The most important factor in determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and rancidification, both at high and low heat, is the relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in it.

Saturated fats have only single bonds in the fatty acid molecules, monounsaturated fats have one double bond and polyunsaturated fats have two or more.

It is these double bonds that are chemically reactive and sensitive to heat.

Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking.

Alright, now let’s discuss each type of cooking fat specifically.

The Winner: Coconut Oil

When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is your best choice.

Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat.

This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid.

Coconut oil also has powerful health benefits. It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens.

The fats in coconut oil can also boost metabolism slightly and increase feelings of fullness compared to other fats. It is the only cooking oil that made it to my list of superfoods.

Fatty Acid Breakdown:

  • Saturated: 92%.
  • Monounsaturated: 6%.
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.6%.

Make sure to choose virgin coconut oil. It’s organic, it tastes good and it has powerful health benefits.

The saturated fats used to be considered unhealthy, but new studies prove that they are totally harmless. Saturated fats are a safe source of energy for humans.

Butter

Butter was also demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content.

But there really is no reason to fear real butter. It’s the processed margarine that is the truly awful stuff.

Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious.

It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It is also rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate, both of which have powerful health benefits.

CLA may lower body fat percentage in humans and butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut health and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese.

Fatty Acid Breakdown:

  • Saturated: 68%.
  • Monounsaturated: 28%.
  • Polyunsaturated: 4%.

There is one caveat for cooking with butter. Regular butter does contain tiny amounts of sugars and proteins and for this reason it tends to get burned during high heat cooking like frying.

If you want to avoid that, you can make clarified butter, or ghee. That way, you remove the lactose and proteins, leaving you with pure butterfat.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to clarify your own butter.

Make sure to choose butter from grass-fed cows. This butter contains more Vitamin K2, CLA and other nutrients, compared to butter from grain-fed cows.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the mediterranean diet.

Some studies show that olive oil can improve biomarkers of health.

It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream.

Fatty Acid Breakdown:

  • Saturated: 14%.
  • Monounsaturated: 75%.
  • Polyunsaturated: 11%.

Studies on olive oil show that despite having fatty acids with double bonds, you can still use it for cooking as it is fairly resistant to the heat.

Make sure to choose quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has much more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. Plus it tastes much better.

Keep your olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place, to prevent it from going rancid.

Animal Fats – Lard, Tallow, Bacon Drippings

The fatty acid content of animals tends to vary depending on what the animals eat.

If they eat a lot of grains, the fats will contain quite a bit of polyunsaturated fats.

If the animals are pastured raised or grass-fed, there will be more saturated and monounsaturated fats in them.

Therefore, animal fats from animals that are naturally raised are excellent options for cooking.

You can buy ready-made lard or tallow from the store, or you can save the drippings from meat to use at a later time. Bacon drippings are especially tasty.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms.

It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.

This makes palm oil a good choice for cooking.

Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is also rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.

However, some concerns have been raised about the sustainability of harvesting palm oil, apparently growing these trees means less environment available for Orangutans, which are an endangered species.

Avocado Oil

The composition of avocado oil is similar to olive oil. It is primarily monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in.

It can be used for many of the same purposes as olive oil. You can cook with it, or use it cold.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is very rich in the animal form of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are DHA and EPA. A tablespoon of fish oil can satisfy your daily need for these very important fatty acids.

The best fish oil is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in Vitamin D3, which a large part of the world is deficient in.

However, due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil should neverbe used for cooking. It’s best used as a supplement, one tablespoon per day. Keep in a cool, dry and dark place.

Flax Oil

Flax oil contains lots of the plant form of Omega-3, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA).

Many people use this oil to supplement with Omega-3 fats.

However, unless you’re vegan, then I do recommend that you use fish oil instead.

Evidence shows that the human body doesn’t efficiently convert ALA to the active forms, EPA and DHA, of which fish oil has plenty.

Due to the large amount of polyunsaturated fats, flax seed oil should NOT be used for cooking.

Canola Oil

Canola oil is derived from rapeseeds, but the euric acid (a toxic, bitter substance) has been removed from it.

The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is actually fairly good, with most of the fatty acids monounsaturated, then containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 in a 2:1 ratio, which is perfect.

However, canola oil needs to go through very harshprocessing methods before it is turned into the final product.

Check out this video to see how canola oil is made. It is very disgusting and involves the toxic solvent hexane (among others) – I personally don’t think these oils are suitable for human consumption.

Source from Authority Nutrition