Crispy, Golden…and Potentially Dangerous!

September 2, 2014

fried chickenGrass-fed, organic, free-range. But are you undermining those benefits with the way you cook your food?
Last week we told you about the research indicating that, although not essential, it might be a good idea to cook mushrooms before eating. This week we discuss what happens when you cook other food at higher temperatures.
Advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, are formed when carbohydrates (and especially simple sugars) are cooked with proteins or fats—essentially, whenever meat is browned, bread is baked, and veggies are roasted: the Maillard reaction. AGEs start forming between 285° and 330°F. In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created, and most people find browned foods to be far more delicious than their paler counterparts.
Unfortunately, several important studies published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences indicate that consuming foods high in AGEs, also known as glycotoxins, appear to be responsible for the induction of a low-grade but chronic state of inflammation. AGEs also accelerate aging, and may play a causative role in the blood vessel complications seen with diabetes because they speed up oxidative damage in the body.
It’s not just inflammation that is problematic—high-temperature cooking can also be carcinogenic, increasing breast cancer risk for women who ate well-done meat and prostrate cancer risk for men, as well as the risk of colon cancer.
An even bigger issue may be that many processed, pasteurized, homogenized, or refined foods have been exposed to high heat as part of production process and may contain glycotoxins. This includes white flour, cake mixes, dried eggs, canned or frozen pre-cooked meals, dried milk, and dairy products including pasteurized milk. In fact, one important study looked at a variety of processed milk products and found them far higher in glycotoxins than raw milk products. Even organic milk may have been ultra-pasteurized for longer shelf life, and ultra-pasteurization means higher heat for a longer period of time.
Since junk foods are, of course, commonly cooked at extremely high temperatures, it makes sense to avoid entirely highly processed foods such as French fries, hamburgers, potato chips, fried foods, etc. These foods not only contain many glycotoxins—they also create other metabolic disorders that can induce degenerative disease.
The good news is, there are easy ways to protect you and your family from AGEs:

  • Cook “low and slow”—that is, cook at lower temperatures, preferably under 250°F, or at least under 300°F if necessary, for longer periods of time. If you eat red meat, slow-roasting it at 200° or below will turn a tougher cut into a supple and tender roast. Or use a Crock Pot or other slow cooker. Techniques like poaching, steaming, braising, stewing, and slow-cooking use less heat than baking or grilling. Utilize them whenever you can.
  • The Life Extension Foundation has been a leader in pointing out the dangers of AGEs. It suggests a little prep work if you plan to grill: neutralize harmful toxins by marinating meat for several hours in protective ingredients such as rosemary, turmeric, olive oil, mustard, wine, and garlic.
  • Don’t think that dry heat solves the problem. Although cooking in oil increases glycation, using dry heat can also increase glycation. Cooking with liquids helps reduce it. Also, the glycotoxins are found in places where the browning is greatest, so consider cutting off some of the char.
  • Consider adding more raw and steamed vegetables to your diet along with a small amount of fresh fruit. Too much fruit, especially dried fruit, means too much fructose. (The jury is not in on this one, but one apple and one banana per day might be reasonable.) Another reason to eat more raw food: cooking may destroy health-giving enzymes.
  • LEF recommends supplementing with fish oil, DHEA, vitamin K, and nettle leaf extract to reduce inflammation caused by AGEs. Consuming at least 1000 mg a day of carnosine can also inhibit pathological glycation reactions in the body, as does Benfotiamine, a thiamine derivative.

We understand that some of us will never be able to resist crisp chicken skin or a nice sear on that salmon. Remember that it’s the cumulative effect of all one’s food choices that makes the greatest difference. So fall in love with raw food or wonderful slow or low-cooked braises and stews. Save the grill marks for special (and rare) occasions.

9 responses to “Crispy, Golden…and Potentially Dangerous!”

  1. James Borden, Certified Nutritionist says:

    Very intelligent and wise advice for all those who have ears to hear. Just imagine how long humans survived without processing and cooking their food to death! Our genetic programming and physiological processes have enabled us to survive with little or no intervention between the food and our mouths.

  2. Betty Rinderknecht says:

    Everyone keeps saying eat raw. However, carrots are too hard and even some apples are difficult seeing as how I don’t have a full set of molars any more. So I have to cook many things – even cabbage. I do not overcook them, but cannot handle them raw. Which of the vitamin Ks are you talking about?
    Having had a large blood clot in my left leg I am leery of having extra vitamin K in my diet. I have heard that K2 is different than the parent plain K. So what am I supposed to believe? Hoping to get some information about this.

    • EP says:

      After having done years of my own research, I believe that we SHOULD consume MOST foods/drinks as raw as possible EXCEPT for naturally hard foods, such as carrots, potatoes, and all cruciferous vegetables…in which case, they should be steamed, or cooked as lightly as possible. I also believe (of course), that all poultry, pork, and shellfish SHOULD be thoroughly cooked (but NOT overcooked).
      As for Vitamin K, there are three types…the first two are BOTH necessary (Vitamin K2 has been found to be especially good for your heart), but Vitamin K is synthetic (therefore, SHOULD BE AVOIDED)!

    • Searching for answers says:

      Betty, You may want to read a recent book “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” by Dr. Kate Rheume-Blue (Canadian). Its an eye-opener.

  3. markgil says:

    it is of critical importance to remember that when you consume an animal or any animal product, you are contributing to the exploitation, abuse and brutal murder of an innocent, helpless sentient being-all in the name of a trivial taste sensation. there is NO need for any human to consume the flesh, milk or eggs of brutalized farmed animals and to do so is to choose violence, suffering and death over kindness and compassion. it is a moral imperative to do the least harm possible and treat all others, regardless of species, the way we ourselves wish to be treated and the only way to being this journey is to become vegan.
    “Animal agriculturalists, chefs, and consumers desperately want to believe the myth that animal products labeled organic, humane, and sustainable are morally and ecologically defensible. They promote the washings as cover for their beliefs. They choose not to see the abusive and unsustainable nature of meat, dairy, and eggs. They pledge allegiance to an adjustment to factory farming, nothing more.”

    • Jean S says:

      I can understand people wanting to eat all veggies, but what I don’t understand is why they don’t understand that God gave the animals to us for clothing, food, protection, etc/. Why would the Hebrews
      ( following God’s command) take their sheep/ goats with them to the promised land? I haven’t read anywhere in the Old or New Testament that meat was a no-no. So-o-o where did that idea come from?? …just wondering..
      Jean

  4. Geraldine Vaccaro says:

    Eating fermented foods will restore a severely dysfunctional immune system.
    Making your own Raw Kefir from Raw milk provides far more good intestinal flora than any yogurt can. Commercial Kefir claiming to hold probiotics is misleading. Its probiotics are dead. Only live probiotics are curative.

  5. Industry has done such a good job of hiding processed free glutamic acid (MSG) from the public that even you don’t realize that cooking proteins under high heat, which includes ultra pasteurizing milk, creates MSG. Those hundreds of different flavor compounds that are created? The flavor comes from the processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

  6. Dave says:

    Great article, probably anticipating an important revolution gradually coming in sensible, collective wisdom about nutrition.
    Those of us living with diabetes monitor our Hemoglobin A1C tests which indicate average blood sugar levels over about the previous three months. The test appears to measure specific glycated protein, and doctors use it to determine overall recent control of the disease and how best to treat it.
    The title of this article led me to expect mention of acrylamide, which got bad press several years ago as yet another demon in French fries, potato chips, and bread crust among others. I did not expect it to touch on the complex toxic chemistry of heating meats to high temperatures. Dr. MIchael Gerger of nutritionfacts.org has convinced me to consume less animal protein, if any at all. Accordingly, we have been sacrificing the savory Maillard reaction and avoiding the common practice of charring food, so we have been favoring steaming and braising approaches if cooking at all, and find that a friend’s preference for his mother’s boiled hamburgers over grilled ones has its merits. Steamed cheeseburgers are popular in a nearby town dominated by Eastern European immigrants.
    The question of whether it is better to toast nuts and seeds now looms. It has been written that it might not be healthy to heat them above 160 F [steaming has its limitations!} and Dr. Andrew Weil seems to prefer raw cashews. Peanuts and other nuts that contain stuff like phytates might not be healthier eaten raw, so the boiled peanuts popular in southeastern U.S. might be better than the roasted, if they would only ease up on all the salt.
    Thanks for summarizing this ongoing research. There appears to be much more to learn and some compromise at some junctures, but this provides some science- based direction in healthy eating.

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