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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

December 1, 2003 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Nuke It, Boil It, Bake It, or Eat It Raw?

Maybe the raw foodists have been right all along when they say their method of food preparation is nutritionally superior to the heating techniques practiced by the rest of us. Scientific studies during the last year have revealed numerous problems arising from cooking food. Some showed how heating foods at high temperatures created carcinogens, while others reported that food was robbed of nutrients when it was microwaved, heated in water, or frozen.

The November 2003 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture presented two studies showing how different cooking methods diminished the antioxidant content of vegetables. In one study, researchers in Murcia, Spain, subjected fresh broccoli to four different cooking methods: high pressure boiling, conventional boiling, steaming, and microwaving. In all of these tests they used 5 oz. of broccoli and 2/3 cup of water.

All of the cooking methods resulted in a loss of three types of flavinoids that are cancer-fighting antioxidants. Flavinoids found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer. Microwaving the broccoli in water for five minutes led to a 74% to 97% loss of antioxidants. Boiling reduced the flavinoids 66%, while pressure-cooking dropped the loss to 47%.

The healthiest preparation method was to steam the broccoli over water for 3 1/2 minutes leading to a minimal nutrient loss of between 0% to 10%.

Lead researcher Dr. Cristina Garcia-Viguera of the Department of Food Science and Tecnology at CEBAS-CSIC in Murcia, Spain, stated in a news release on October 17, 2003, "Most of the bioactive compounds are water soluble; during heating they leak in a high percentage into the cooking water, reducing their nutritional benefits in the foodstuff. Because of this, it is recommended to cook vegetables in the minimum amount of water (as in steaming) in order to retain their nutritional benefits."

Blanching and Frozen Foods
In yet another study researchers started with 20 vegetables to determine antioxidant loss when they were blanched briefly in boiling water and then frozen. Blanching is an initial preparation used prior to freezing foods.

The blanching process produced a 1/3 loss of antioxidants, including vitamin C. Storing the vegetables in the freezer led to additional nutrient depletion.

Subjecting certain foods to high heat and extreme cold not only diminishes cancer-fighting antioxidants, but may also create cancer-causing chemicals.

French Fries Suffer Indignities
Pity the poor French fries. First they cost MacDonald's $10,000,000 because they were laced with beef tallow. Then they were found guilty of causing heart attacks and strokes because they were loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat. Now they've struck out for the third time because of a carcinogen called acrylamide.

Researchers in Sweden startled the world when they announced in May 2002 that starchy foods cooked at high temperatures contained acrylamide in larger amounts than permitted in drinking water. Acrylamide is used in the manufacture of plastics and was cited in the 1980's as a potential carcinogen in drinking water. Currently the Environmental Protection Agency says that acrylamide in drinking water should not exceed .12 mcg in an 8-oz. serving.

The Swedish scientists stated that acrylamide "causes DNA damage and at high doses neurological and reproductive effects have been observed. Prolonged exposure has induced tumors in rats, but cancer in man has not been convincingly shown."

Fast Food Fries Are Loaded
According to laboratory tests commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest French fries top the list of acrylamide-laden foods. A large order of McDonald's fries (6.2 oz.) contained 82 mcg, while fries from Wendy's, KFC, and Burger King had significant amounts of this carciogen that were only slightly less than McDonald's. Burger King's large order (5.7 oz) contained 59 mcg of acrylamide, while KFC was close behind with 52 mcg.

An order of Wendy's Biggie Fries (5.6 oz.) had 39 mcg, yet 3 oz. of Ore Ida Baked French Fries yielded 28 mcg. Those same Ore Ida fries contain only 5 mcg of acrylamide when they are uncooked.

Only 1 oz. of Pringle's Potato Crisps contained 25 mcg, but corn chips revealed much lower amounts for the same size serving. Fritos Corn Chips registered 11 mcg while Tostitos Corn Chips had 5 mcg. Even breakfast cereals like Cheerios had 6 to 7 mcg per oz.

Although the highest amounts of acrylamide came from potatoes fried or baked at high temperatures, potatoes that were boiled showed less than 3 mcg for a 4 oz. serving.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer has stated that, based on tests in animals, acrylamide is "probably carcinogenic to humans." American scientists, on the other hand, are skeptical because large doses of acrylamide fed to rats do not prove acrylamide is dangerous to humans. EPA researcher David Lai, who originally reviewed the studies of acrylamide and rats, said, there is "no adequate human data" on acrylamide as a carcinogen. "Based on animal data, we classify acrylamide as a probable human carcinogen. That's all we can say."

Norwegian scientists confirmed the results of Swedish research and warned people to reduce their consumption of potato chips. Their research showed a high level of acrylamide in potato chips, a medium level in French fries, and a low level in breads.

The Bottom Line
In response to these recent scientific discoveries, VIP believes we need to rethink our attitudes toward food preparation. All methods of heating appear to have significant negative effects on food. Those effects may or may not be carcinogenic, but even so, they change the nutrient qualities of the food. A potato chip may be perceived as an innocent snack, but the oil and heat in its processing may create the torpedo that sinks the human vessel with artery clogging saturated fat and potentially cancer-causing acrylamide.

Immersing vegetables in a large quantity of water may create nutritient-rich water and vegetables with few nourishing qualities. The irony is that people may be throwing away the most nutritionally valuable part of a meal when they pour the cooking water into the sink.

The most judicious policy may be to eat most servings of fruits and vegetables raw. For cooked foods, steaming briefly in a small amount of water is the best method for preserving most of the antioxidants. Boiling and baking should be less frequent; frying should be eliminated. As for the microwave, its convenience in food preparation does not compensate for the enormous nutrient loss.

When the raw disciples talk about "living foods" and the destruction of enzymes in cooking, we all may want to listen more closely.

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