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The Hot Truth About Cooking Food

By ChristinasFitness.com

Written exclusively for Xyience.com (Manzen, LLC) by ChristinasFitness.com, 2013


It has long been known that cooking food can impact the quality of nutrients found within our foods. The truth is every food has very particular macronutrient (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) profiles. These very complex profiles can change over time – with or without cooking involved.

A banana, for instance, starts off as a green, very bitter-tasting fruit that contains a very low-glycemic starch as its only carbohydrate source. As it ripens, its molecular properties undergo a drastic transformation. The starch in the banana transforms into a sugar, and a much higher glycemic carbohydrate source – which is why a yellow banana is much sweeter tasting than a green one. As days go by, both the micronutrient and macronutrient profile of the banana transforms. Imagine cooking as being a rapid form of this example.

Cooking methods can become a very important variable to the transformation of nutrients; the most important variable being time and temperature. For a general rule of thumb breakdown, here is a list of how certain nutrients are broken down:

Most Vulnerable to Nutrient Loss and Deterioration:

·      Water-soluble, anti-oxidant nutrients: Vitamin C, B, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), folate/folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin. These nutrients see around a 50%-70% decrease from their raw-food levels when cooked with usual methods. Steaming and Baking are the two best ways to prepare foods with these nutrients (usually veggies).

Less Vulnerable to Nutrient Loss and Deterioration:

·      Minerals (calcium, iron, etc.) are not usually destroyed with conventional cooking methods but they dissolve in water and can seep out into the cooking liquid.

·      Macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbs) remain stable under nearly any cooking methods. Some sources have cited that protein is deteriorated by cooking processes, but there is an important technicality to this: Protein can “denature” under high heat, meaning the bonds between the amino acids rupture and cause the protein to become “incomplete”… but it’s important to understand that as humans, our bodies digest proteins into its individual amino acid profiles, then use amino acids to create our own unique complete proteins. This renders cooking proteins harmless for humans.

The most harmful ways to cook food (from worst to least):

1.     Frying: Since this method uses such high temperatures, most of the nutrients are destroyed fairly quickly.

2.     Pan-Frying: This method also uses high temperatures, causing high nutrient loss.

3.     Boiling: Extremely bad for water-soluble nutrients, as not only does the heat deteriorate nutrients but they also release into the water, which is always poured down the drain.

4.     Baking: Much less deteriorating, baking can tenderize foods and kill bacteria without deteriorating nutrients as much as the above cooking methods.

5.     Steaming: This is the best way to prepare foods that you want cooked because most nutrients never escape the foods and there is less nutrient deterioration than any other cooking method.

What it boils down to (no pun intended) is that some nutrients are just more susceptible to nutrient degradation than others. Cooking will almost always deteriorate nutrients in some way, but it’s important to understand that steaming and baking are the two best ways to prepare foods to retain as many nutrients as possible. Eating raw foods will always be in favor of nutrient-richness, but cooked food can still retain a significant amount of its original nutrient content if it is prepared the right way.

To your health and LIFE,

- Christina

Author of The Fitness Foundation and Founder of ChristinasFitness.com