Now that you are bringing home the best food possible, how can you make sure you’re getting the most nutrients from that food?

As we learned in the fruit and vegetable series, the nutrient value of today’s food is dramatically diminished. Remember the reference to peaches: In 1951, two peaches would supply a woman’s Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A, but today she’d need to eat 53 to get the same nutrients?

So with reduced nutrient value, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you get all the nutrients you can out of the food you cook–and that you avoid adding carcinogens or chemicals or altering the food profile with your cooking method.

Next I’m going to discuss some of the best ways to prepare food infused with nutrients.

The Best Cooking Methods

Stir-frying is a great way to eat perfectly balanced meals because you can cook protein, carbohydrates (vegetables) and healthy fats (coconut oil or rice bran oil) in one pan. Using a wok over medium heat and continuously stirring the food allows it to cook while remaining crisp and maintaining nutrient value.

If you use traditional vegetable oils, it’s important not to let the heat get too high or the oil will oxidize and turn rancid. (If it discolors or imparts a smoky flavor, you’ve definitely gone too far). I rarely if ever turn my stove dials above three (on a 1-10 scale). Rice bran oil can handle higher heat and is the best bet for stir frying. You can also use chicken or vegetable broth instead of oil.

Sautéing as it is traditionally done over high heat, is not usually a good choice because the oil is likely to oxidize. But now what was once called pan-frying is being called sautéing, and it is a good way to prepare foods as long as the heat stays low and the oils are healthy ones. To me, it doesn’t matter whether you adhere to traditional naming conventions: With my stove dial on three, and using coconut oil, rice bran oil, butter, or broth, cooking vegetables and/or meats in a skillet is a good alternative to using a wok and probably my most typical cooking method.

Steaming vegetables in a small amount of water in a covered pot (using a basket or colander) is one of the best ways to keep nutrients in your vegetables. Just be careful not to overcook: Vegetables should be brightly colored and slightly crunchy when they are done, not soggy and limp. Try adding your favorite spice to the water for extra flavor!

Poaching isn’t just for eggs: It’s also a way to cook fish, chicken and delicate foods that would not survive a boil. While better than boiling, there is still some nutrient loss to the water.

Boiling tends to drain a lot of nutrients, but for some hearty vegetables like potatoes and root vegetables, it makes sense on occasion. It definitely makes sense if you are making soup and are keeping all the nutrients in the broth! Otherwise, try to avoid boiling. If you do boil, try to use the nutrient-rich water in your soup broth, sauce or rice or quinoa.

Pressure-cooking has been revived lately but remains an uncommon means of cooking in the U.S. But because pressure-cooking cooks foods very quickly, it tends to preserve a lot of nutrients and flavor, unlike slow cookers, which result in greater nutrient loss. I don’t use my pressure cooker often, but it does create tender succulent fall-off-the-bone meat dishes that convince even the most loyal grilling fans that there is another option.

Baking is not just for pies and cookies; it can be a good way to mix meats and vegetables into a simple meal. Roasting meat and veggies in a pan can also a make a hearty meal. It’s not something I like to do in the summer months, but in the winter, baked/roasted meals are comforting in taste, texture and smell.

And for vegetables, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the best ways to serve them is raw. You can drizzle some olive oil and himalyan salt on them or create sauces from organic ingredients you have on hand. While my kids love broccoli sautéed in a little oil, they also adore it raw and crunchy. I often set out a raw veggie platter while I am cooking only to find it completely devoured before we sit down at the table. And that’s OK with me!

Cooking Methods to Avoid

Frying and deep-frying probably don’t need much of an explanation for why they are unhealthy. In addition to the excess calories and fat, frying at high heats causes oils to oxidize and turn rancid. This causes inflammation, which can result in myriad problems, including high cholesterol, arterial plaque leading to heart disease, and can produce cancer-causing chemicals. If you do cook on high heat be sure to cook with an oil such as rice bran oil that can withstand higher temperatures before it oxidizes.

Microwaving is a controversial cooking method and one that I’m going to discuss more fully another time. But research shows that microwaving alters the chemical composition of food and affects the nutrient value. Microwaving poses health concerns that I believe will be proven in time, but for now, perhaps knowing that microwaved broccoli results loses up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidant chemicals, while steamed broccoli loses fewer than 11%, may help you think twice about it.

If you must microwave, never use plastic containers, as they have been shown to leach toxic chemicals like Bisphenol A into your food: always use glass or ceramics. (Some ceramics say microwave safe but they are not. One way to test microwave safety is to fill the container with cold water and heat it on high power for one minute. If the water gets warmer but the container remains cool, it’s ok to use. If the container becomes warm, don’t use it.)

Grilling is a great American tradition and I know I’m not going to make friends when I say that you should minimize grilling to the extent possible. While gas is a better fuel than charcoal, and electric is best, anytime you generate a black char line on your food, you are creating carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, in your food.

And even if you don’t char your meat, fat in the meat causes gases to be released when it drips onto the heat source, which pose additional cancer concerns. For that reason, avoid grilling meat. Grilling vegetables and fish without char lines is OK — use foil or a basket and grill away.

As with everything, balance is key. If you do it on occasion, and live a healthy lifestyle, occasional char-grilled meat isn’t likely to cause you much trouble. Nor will using a microwave in a pinch. But if you do it regularly, and/or you have other health issues to address, then minimizing such cooking methods could be a big step forward to improving your wellness.

And one final note: if you are still using non-stick cookware, consider investing in a new set of pans. Numerous studies have shown that the chemicals that create the non-stick pan linings are toxic and leach into the food over time. Ceramic cast iron pans are a great choice as is stainless steel.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


In a previous article, we talked about the three different kinds of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The reality is, all fats contain combinations of each of these, but fats are classified based on which type of fat is predominant. And your body needs all three of these types of fat for healthy functioning.

But in today’s world, we are eating too many omega 6 fatty acids and not enough omega 3s. So instead of the 1:1 balance our body desires, the ratio can be more like 20 or even 50:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Since we are so omega 6 dominant, we need to look to minimize our consumption whenever we can, and knowing this plays an important role in the selection of the best fats and oils to use for cooking.

The good news is that there are some wonderful healthy options out there to cook with instead. So let’s look at the five fats I use to cook with on a regular basis.

Olive Oil

Everyone has heard about the benefits of olive oil. Because it is a monounsaturated fat high in oleic acid and antioxidants, it provides numerous health benefits including one you may not have heard about: displacing omega 6 fatty acids while not impacting omega 3s, helping to balance our omega 6-3 ratios.

Studies have shown that olive oil can help control and lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL levels. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits and to inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, a leading cause of heart concerns.

I don’t need to spend a lot of time singing its praises, because unlike some of the other oils I am discussing, this one is well-known and its benefits are well-marketed. So don’t let the shorter write-up lead you to minimize its benefits!

The one thing you may not know about olive oil, however, is that it should not be used for high heat cooking. Other than a low heat sauté, it should only be used cold as it does not have a high enough smoke point to withstand higher heat without being damaged. This means that if you cook with it on higher heats, it can oxidize and turn rancid, leading to internal inflammation and health concerns.

So definitely choose olive oil for salads and dipping and even baking! But let’s look at other oils you can use for higher heat cooking.


Yes, it’s true. Despite what you have been led to believe by food manufacturers trying to sell trans fat-laden margarine, butter is a heart (and whole body) healthy option. Your body needs saturated fat to function and saturated fats like butter (and coconut oil which we’ll talk about soon) are easy to digest because unlike polyunsaturated fats which are long-chain fatty acids, short and medium chain fatty acids don’t require emulsification by stomach acids first. Rather, they can be used directly for energy instead of being stored as fat.

Saturated fat is required to absorb calcium and other minerals (a good reason to avoid skim milk: without fat, calcium and vitamin D cannot be absorbed). Saturated fats build immunity, are integral in cellular membrane structure and integrity, and are more stable and so less likely to oxidize; they can even help cells resist oxidative damage. Our brains run on cholesterol and saturated fat; they also make up a significant portion of the myelin sheath surrounding our nerve fibers and regulating message relays between the brain and our nerves, so we can’t live without cholesterol and saturated fat.

We will talk more soon about heart health and when we do, I will share the extensive research that shows that saturated fats actually have a beneficial impact on heart health and cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels. We were raised on a diet of butter and lard and animal fat and only when we began to reduce our consumption did heart concerns escalate.

For now, until we go deeper into the research, do not worry about indulging in some butter, though choose raw butter if at all possible, and if not, then opt for organic butter. The biggest concern about dairy products today is not the fat, but the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics we consume along with them when we eat them.

Coconut Oil

We discussed coconut oil in a previous article and it is an excellent cooking option. In case you missed it, or even if you did read it since we often need to read something several times to take it all in, I will share a bit of why this oil is such a great health option. Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that has been proven to benefit heart health and even helps kill viruses, bacteria and fungi in the body.

The difference between coconut oil and many other fats and oils is its size. Most all (an estimated 98-100%) of the fats and oils we typically consume are long-chain fatty acids or LCFA. But coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid, or MCFA. Our bodies metabolize each fatty acid chain size differently, so the effects of coconut oil in our bodies are very different than the traditional meat, milk, eggs and plants we consume that are made up of LCFA.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that has tremendous health benefits and offers a form of fatty acids we don’t typically find in our diets. Coconut oil actually regulates blood cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides; therefore, it actually helps with heart disease prevention and treatment. Coconut oil also helps to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol and has been shown to be effective at lowering lipoprotein(a). And coconut oil actually increases your metabolism, so despite being a saturated fat, it is often used in weight loss and weight management programs.
Coconut oil also has an antimicrobial effect in the body and can be used to treat bacterial infections including even severe antibiotic resistant strains. By eliminating and healing bacterial or viral lesions on artery walls, we can prevent inflammation and the barrage of white blood cells that can accompany it.

A study in clinical biochemistry confirmed the benefits of coconut oil on heart health. The study proved that virgin coconut oil lowered very low density lipoproteins (the troublemakers), raised HDL, lowered triglycerides and phospholipids, reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels, and was shown to inhibit LDL oxidation.

The study concluded that we know that oxidized cholesterol can initiate the process of atherosclerosis and the fatty acids in coconut oil prevent this oxidation. The effects of coconut oil on heart health were deemed uniformly beneficial. It can withstand higher heat, so it’s a great cooking option. The only downside is that while it does not have a strong taste, it does have a slight coconut flavor. So it may not work in every dish but for sautéing vegetables or meat, it’s a go-to in our house.

Rice Bran Oil

The best oil for high heat cooking, and the best oil you may never have heard of, is rice bran oil. Rice brain oil is similar to peanut oil in composition, with 25% saturated fat, 38% monounsaturated fat, and 37% polyunsaturated fat. You’ll recall that every fat is a combination but it gets classified based on what it has the most of, so technically, it is a monounsaturated fat, though just barely!

Rice bran oil has a very high smoke point of 415 degrees and it is often used in
Japanese restaurants for tempura and in Chinese restaurants for stir fries. It is extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice and has a very mild flavor. While I try to avoid frying or high heat cooking, if you cannot live without mom’s fried chicken or a family favorite recipe that involves deep frying or high heat cooking, you will definitely want to use rice bran oil.

But here’s the best part: not only can you cook with it at high temperatures, rice bran oil has so many health benefits that it is being taken as a supplement! Imagine finding an oil and a fat source that you can cook with that is so good for you that people are taking it in pill form! (Coconut oil is probably in the same league but it has a different flavor and doesn’t work as well for stir fry or frying.)

Rice bran oil contains an antioxidant gamma oryzanol as well as high fractions of tocopherols and tocotrienols taken together as vitamin E. It also contains phytosterols, the benefits of which have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, and reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides. One study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology showed rice bran oil decreased total cholesterol by 42% and decreased LDL cholesterol by 62%. The antioxidant stability of rice bran oil remains consistent even at high temperatures, which means it doesn’t change molecularly at high heat and doesn’t oxidize or cause internal damage.

In addition, the antioxidant gamma oryzanol contained within it was shown to relieve hot flashes in women during perimenopause. After taking a supplement for 4-6 weeks, 90% of the women in the study found some relief. It has also been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and gastric acid secretion. It is regularly taken in Japan as a supplement to improve cholesterol and no negative impacts have been associated with its consumption.

Ok, this may be sounding too good to be true, and with all things, there is a downside. Rice bran oil has not caught on in America as it has in other parts of the world, and so it can be harder to find and more expensive. I recently bought some and paid about $8 for a 16oz bottle though you can definitely get it cheaper if you buy in larger quantities. This is significantly more than a bottle of olive oil or coconut oil. But I don’t cook on high heat often, so my bottle lasts me a LONG time. And given the harms of cooking on high heat with other fats and the benefits of using rice bran oil, it’s totally worth it to me.

If you cook on high heat a lot, it may seem too pricey. But I would argue that if you cook on high heat a lot, rice bran oil is a health investment you need to make if you’re not willing to change your eating habits.

Grapeseed Oil

If you can’t find rice bran oil or you can’t afford, it, there is another oil that is suitable for higher heat cooking. It is often used by chefs because it has very little flavor and so unlike many fats that have distinctive tastes, grapeseed oil lets the flavors of the foods shine through.

Many chefs will cook in grapeseed oil and then toss with olive oil when done to impart the olive oil flavor. While grapeseed oil is able to withstand higher temperatures, the downside to using it instead of rice bran oil is that in addition to not having the health benefits of rice bran oil, grapeseed oil is predominantly an omega 6 fatty acid oil.

As we discussed previously, our diets are highly imbalanced in favor of omega 6s over omega 3s. So if you use grapeseed oil, you will need to increase your omega 3 consumption or supplementation. I take omega 3 supplements with every meal, but if you do not, you will definitely want to consider supplementing at mealtime if you are cooking with grapeseed oil. But grapeseed oil is cheaper and readily available in supermarkets and stores like Trader Joe’s. As long as you compensate for the omega 6 consumption, grapeseed oil can be used on occasion, but I prefer using the other four fats whenever possible.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

© 2012 Inger Pols, Inc. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha