Are Your Kitchen Habits Damaging Your Health?

Are Your Kitchen Habits Damaging Your Health?

Nov 01, 2023

So, you’ve quit the sugary drinks, tossed out the fragrant candles, and even invested in a water filter – all in the quest to bring down your overall toxin burden.

If you’ve gotten this far, then all your efforts deserve a standing ovation! You are well into a journey of a toxin-free lifestyle and are making smart decisions to keep your family’s health the best it can be.

You may be familiar with the functional medicine belief that longevity and wellness begin in the kitchen. Whether you prepare a fancy Thanksgiving meal or simply share a quick breakfast with your loved one on a busy Monday morning, kitchens are nurturing places that foster love and well-being.

But how many of us are inspecting our kitchen habits? Is our kitchen setting the gold standard of health, or is it actually becoming a toxin hotspot?

As a functional medicine physician in Houston, I work with several patients who pay little attention to the way they cook and store food. While there is hours of social media content on meal prepping, there’s very little awareness of kitchen habits that may impact your metabolism.

When we work to resolve the root cause of illness, seemingly small actions can have a significant impact and reduce our overall toxin burden.

So how can you ensure your kitchen habits aren’t increasing your exposure to chemicals? What are some effective ways to cook food and retain its nutrition? Let’s find out!

1. Bake or Roast

Baking or roasting your food at temperatures between 300°F to 450°F (150°C to 230°C) can help preserve nutrients while enhancing the flavor. This method exposes your food to dry, radiant heat, allowing it to cook evenly without losing its essential vitamins and minerals.

Cooking Tip: Use good fats like olive oil or avocado oil to enhance flavor and maintain nutritional value.

2. Blanch or Boil

Blanching or boiling your vegetables requires hot water to cook food (usually below 212°F or 100°C). Extended boiling can lead to nutrient leach, whereas blanching is a quick 1-minute process and preserves nutrients.

Cooking Tip: Use a minimal amount of water to help preserve water-soluble vitamins. Also, consider saving the nutrient-rich cooking water for soups and sauces.

3. Fry or Sauté

Frying or sautéing food can be done at temperatures around 350°F (175°C). While it might not be the most nutrient-friendly method, you can minimize nutrient loss by healthy fats such as coconut oil or ghee. Keep the cooking time short to limit nutrient degradation.

Cooking Tip: Cook at lower temperatures, avoid overcrowding the pan, and choose oils with a high smoke point to reduce oxidation.

4. Slow Cooking

Slow cooking, often done in a crockpot or a slow cooker, maintains nutrient content due to its low and steady heat. Cooking at temperatures between 180°F to 200°F (80°C to 95°C) in plenty of liquid allows flavors to develop. The broth is full of water-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Cooking Tip: Use grass-fed meats, bones, and plenty of vegetables to create nutrient-rich, hearty soups and stocks.

5. Steaming

Steaming your food involves cooking at a low temperature, usually around 212°F (100°C), which helps preserve nutrients. Steam gently surrounds the food, cooking it without direct contact with water, limiting nutrient loss.

Cooking Tip: Steaming retains the natural flavors of your ingredients, so season with herbs and spices rather than salt.

Common Kitchen Habits That Increase Toxin Load:

Apart from cooking methods, many people are unaware of how their habits may be turning their kitchens into toxin hotspots. We may have picked up some of these in our childhood, others may have been born out of sheer convenience and efficacy. Regardless, it is important to know how certain kitchen choices can impact our overall toxin load and well-being.

  1. Using Non-Stick Cookware: Many non-stick pans are coated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or similar compounds, which can release toxic fumes when heated at high temperatures. Liver damage, fertility problems, asthma, and increased risk of thyroid disorders are only a few of the studied effects of PFAs on human health. A word of advice: steer clear!
  2. Using Plastic Storage and Cutting Boards: Heating food in plastic containers can result in the release of harmful chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates into your food. These compounds are known endocrine disruptors and have been linked to various health problems.
  3. High-Temperature Frying: Cooking at excessively high temperatures, such as deep frying, can lead to the formation of acrylamide. This is a potentially carcinogenic and neurotoxic compound. It can be found abundantly in fried foods, particularly potato products like french fries and potato chips.
  4. Use of Aluminum Cookware: Aluminum pots and pans can react with acidic or alkaline foods, leading to the transfer of aluminum into your meals. This heavy metal can accumulate in your organs and nerves over time, creating tangles in nerve fibers, muscular dysfunction, and cognitive decline.
  5. Chemical-laden Cleaning Products: Most often, cleaning products we use in the kitchen leave chemical residues on surfaces and dishes. From parabens, phthalates, VOCs, and ammonia to synthetic fragrance and SLS, these cleaning solutions offer a heady mix of endocrine disruptors and environmental toxins that can prove to be detrimental in numerous ways.
  6. Using Low-Quality Oils: Cooking with low-quality refined seed oils that have a low smoke point can result in the formation of harmful free radicals when exposed to high heat. This can significantly drive up inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

By being aware of these habits and making conscious choices in your kitchen, you can reduce your exposure to toxins and improve the overall quality of your meals. Functional medicine encourages a holistic approach to health, including how you prepare and cook your food. If you are dealing with chronic symptoms and need guidance to navigate a health crisis, book your free discovery call with us today.

November 1, 2023

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