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Is Cooking with Aluminum Harmful?

Aluminum pots and pans are inexpensive and lightweight – but when using them, are you doing harm to your body? See what Dr. Weil says.

Aluminum is all around us - it is widely distributed in soil, plants and water, including our food and drinking water, where it is always bound to other substances. But there is no known need for pure aluminum - the kind found in cookware - in human nutrition. Because it is so chemically reactive, it is probably not good for us, and evidence suggests that ingesting aluminum can be harmful to the kidneys and may weaken bones by depleting the body of phosphorus and calcium.

Since aluminum is a superior heat conductor, many cookware products contain it. While I find aluminum ideal for stovetop work, I advise choosing cookware that does not allow food to come in direct contact with it. Look for quality pots and pans that cover the aluminum with stainless steel or some other non-reactive material.

Meal Planning: Foods for Healthful Cooking Methods

For healthful meals, you need the right ingredients, but it does not stop there – the preparation methods factor in as well. Find out the four cooking methods Dr. Weil suggests, and the foods best suited for each!

These four cooking methods will help optimize the nutrients in your foods - and in some instances may help prevent unhealthy consequences. Use the following tips to maximize the nutritional benefits of foods, and use the food suggestions for your grocery list.

  1. Use marinades. Marinating meats (particularly chicken) may reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when grilling, which evidence shows may be carcinogenic. Garlic, rosemary, ginger and turmeric are all healthful spices to include in marinades – add them to your grocery list!
  2. Use a slow cooker. What you put in - fresh vegetables, lean proteins - is a big part of what makes a healthful meal, but the lower temperatures slow cookers use may help preserve nutrients that are otherwise lost when food is cooked rapidly at high heat. Dried beans lend themselves well to slow cookers – buy some for a vegetarian chili!
  3. When grilling, pre-cook meats on the stove or in the oven, and finish them off on the grill. Less time on the grill means fewer carcinogens in your meats. Try this with fish such as wild Alaskan salmon or black cod (also called sablefish).

How Do You Store Your Food? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the health concerns and safety of using food packaging to store food: How Safe is Food Packaging? Check out the article and let us know what you use when storing food.

Paprika – Spices in the Kitchen (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses the health benefits of this paprika, a popular spice known for its distinct smoky flavor. Paprika comes from sun-dried peppers and has been traditionally used for treating digestive issues, circulatory issues, cramps and fever. As a topical applicant, it has been used for reducing arthritis pain, muscle spasms, and even shingles. Paprika adds color to many foods and is used in a wide variety of dishes.

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What Kind of Cutting Board Do You Use? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed cutting boards and which are the safest to use when cooking in the kitchen: Best Cutting Board? Check out the article and let us know which type of cutting board you use in your kitchen.

Beer Marinade – Quick Tip for Healthier Barbeques

Barbeque season in fast approaching in the U.S. and although the tradition offers a lot in the way of social benefits, grilling foods has proven to be decidedly unhealthy. Fortunately, a group of European scientists have come up with a way to cut back on harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogens that can form when meat is cooked on the grill or elsewhere at very high temperatures. The compounds have been associated with tumors, birth defects and reproductive problems in lab animals and with colorectal cancer in humans. The trick to reducing the PAHs in your barbequed steaks and chops, according to the research team, is to marinate them first in beer. The investigators from Universidade do Porto in Portugal reported that four hours of marinating meat in regular or nonalcoholic pilsner or dark ale reduced the PAHs in meat by slightly more than half compared with meat that hasn’t been marinated. Overall, the researchers found that using dark ale (which contains more antioxidants than the other brews) cut PAHs by 53 percent. The nonalcoholic pilsner beer marinade cut PAHs by 25 percent and the regular Pilsner beer reduced them by only 13 percent. When the researchers performed their study, they cooked pork to well done on a charcoal grill.

Sources:
Olga Viegas et al, “Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643 DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w

How Do You Use Cinnamon? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed cinnamon potentially posing a health risk: What's Wrong with Cinnamon? Check out the article and let us know how you typically use cinnamon.

 

What’s Your Least Favorite Aspect of Meal Preparation? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed boredom with food and how some people feel they need to eat out of necessity instead of for pleasure: Bored with Food? Check out the article and let us know what part of meal preparation you least enjoy.

How Quickly Do You Refrigerate Cooked Foods? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the question of whether reheating food is safe or not: Is Reheating Food Safe? Check out the article and let us know how quickly you refrigerate food that you recently cooked.