Turn Down the Heat for Healthier Meat

A healthy and well-balanced meal should always include a source of lean, high-quality protein. However, the latest research suggests that the “how” may be just as important as the “what” when it comes to getting food on our plate. In other words, the cooking methods we use to prepare our food may affect our health just as much as the choices we make.

When certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, toxic compounds can form. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are toxins that form when proteins in beef, pork, poultry and fish are cooked with sugars in the absence of water. Examples of these cooking methods include grilling and pan-frying. When AGEs are absorbed by the body, they have been linked to a variety of conditions including diabetes, inflammation, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study which concluded that the standard Western diet provides at least three-times above the safe limit for daily AGE consumption.

Cooking methods that use less heat and more moisture, such as stewing or slow-cooking, can protect you from consuming too many harmful AGE toxins. Cooking meat slowly and maintaining adequate water content creates a tender texture and concentrated flavor by breaking down tough fibers in meats and allows them to marinate in their own juices. So sit back and let your slow-cooker do the work; it will save you time and energy and save your health!

By Jocelyn Johnson, MS, RD, LN

Clinical Dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital

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