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5 cooking methods that turn healthy foods dangerous

August 11, 2020 (Updated: August 1, 2021)
Lily Moran

As regular readers, you know that great health starts with great food.

But you might not realize that there are dangers lurking in foods that are normally nutritious.

Sometimes it’s the preparation. Sometimes it’s the sauce or dressing.

And sometimes, the simple act of cooking food incorrectly can change it from a health food, to a carcinogen.

Today, let’s take a look at five otherwise-healthy foods, that—improperly prepared—turn into a meal you will want to avoid.

1. Potatoes and breads—on high heat.

You already know to avoid these foods in excess. But when starchy foods—like potatoes or bread—are exposed to temperatures above 250 degrees, a chemical reaction occurs.

An amino acid—asparagine—combines with certain sugars to create acrylamide.

And, in numerous studies, acrylamide appears to increase the risk of cancer.

The higher the temperature—or the longer the cook time—the more acrylamide is created.

It’s most prevalent in fried white potatoes, like french fries or potato chips.

But baked chips contain plenty of acrylamide as well. So do fried sweet potatoes. Or even just toasted bread.

A little bit now and again is unlikely to do much damage. But if you’re getting a side of french fries with each lunch, you’ve got more to worry about than the calories.

2. Eggplant—deep-fried

Did you ever think you were being “good” by getting the eggplant parmesan, instead of a pasta in cream sauce or the pork sausage?

Well, unfortunately, that eggplant is often breaded and deep-fried.

Of course, eggplant is just one example. Breading and deep-frying perfectly harmless—and helpful—vegetables is a great way to ruin them.

Brussels sprouts—deep fried with buffalo sauce. Broccoli bites—broccoli breaded, deep-fried, and dipped in ranch sauce.

Or mushrooms breaded, deep-fried, and dipped in something unhealthy.

It’s bad enough that you’re absorbing all sorts of unhealthy fat and calories through the frying. On top of that, cooking at high heat blanches vegetables of many of their best vitamins and minerals.

3. Asparagus—in hollandaise

If you avoid the fried vegetables, you’re not in the clear yet.

If you’re in a restaurant ordering the side of vegetables, the odds are very good you aren’t just getting vegetables.

The obvious additions are the sauces, like hollandaise or bernaise.

Or the cream in your spinach.

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But even if you’re getting a “clean” plate, chances are good that the veggies were drowned in butter. Or, at the least, a ton of oil.

In some ways, oil-drenched veggies are worse—because you can easily miss the added calories.

4. Salads—with fatty dressings

This is one of the more obvious ones, as it gets hammered home often.

But nothing turns a healthy salad into a calorie bomb faster than the wrong dressing.

Truth be told, most salads don’t really need dressing. You can get the same thing from healthy fats, like from an avocado. Or through the natural juices that come with your veggies and fruits.

Still, if you need a dressing, a simple combination of olive oil, vinegar, and just a dash of salt will always do the job.

Anything above that is wasted calories. Blue cheese dressing? Ranch? Pepper parmesan?

You are getting zero nutrition from them. But now, your salad is as fattening as a cheeseburger.

5. Fruits—doctored for dessert

Having fruit for dessert is a wonderful choice.

Unless you aren’t just having fruit.

Strawberries don’t need extra sugar. Your berries don’t need heavy cream, whipped cream, or ice cream.

And your fruit definitely doesn’t need to be baked in a pie shell.

Adding a little spice to your fruit isn’t a bad thing. Especially if it’s a healthful spice, like cinnamon.

And having the occasional treat is fine as well.

But if your fruit is constantly accompanied by sweeteners and pastry, you’re spoiling it.

Unfortunately, the world at large doesn’t care about your healthy habits. In fact, many restaurants will actively try to undermine you—since sugars and fats are addictive flavors.

That’s why it’s important to know when an unhealthy choice is masquerading as a healthy food. Not all veggies are a good choice. And some cooked foods are much unhealthier than their raw version.

Keep these five Jekyll and Hyde foods in mind when out and about—or cooking at home—and you’ll do plenty to keep your waistline in check, your blood numbers in the green and the doctor off your back.

References

Cancer.org, “Acrylamide and Cancer Risk”, Aug 24 2015 http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/acrylamide

Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Last Updated: August 11, 2020
Originally Published: June 1, 2016

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