Popular food expert and cook, Sabita Radhakrishna shares her food wisdom and decodes myths that often haunt our kitchen.
Often you may find yourself in situations that come very close to breaching your grandmother’s covert advice for faster, better and healthy cooking.Old style chefs and cooks grew up learning kitchen secrets from their mothers and grandmothers, who learnt from theirs. These days, professional and home cooks are more empirical when it comes to culinary arts; nevertheless, there is still that ‘old-wives tale’ that prevents people from cooking factually and wholeheartedly. "We have heard so much from our friends and relatives, or we have learnt from other sources like journals and online forums and take it at face value. However, we need to be sure about the myths and the facts, especially when it comes to food - to have a nutritional diet every day and lead a healthy life," says Sabita.
One of the most common cooking misconceptions that people come across is about the kind of food that they need to eat. There are many arguments pertaining to the way one has to consume food - should it be raw or cooked? "Both raw and cooked food provides plenty of health benefits. It is essential to have a balance of both - if cooked food is completely avoided, then one is eliminating various food groups like meat, dairy, fish and most grains and if raw food is evaded, then one is avoiding the many health advantages of fruits and vegetables."
Other common kitchen fables include labelling certain vegetables and fruits as being unhealthy:
Potato: most loved and most consumed food product in the world is believed to cause heart ailments and arthritis flare ups while eaten excessively. Sabita disabuses this myth saying, "My grandfather consumed potatoes everyday and he did not suffer from any heart disease or joint pains. It is a nutrient dense vegetable and should be consumed as much as possible."
Carrot: This orange coloured vegetable helps in improving eye-sight. “Carrot has beta-carotene that helps the retina and other parts of the eye to function smoothly. However, for improved vision, apart from this, other vitamins and minerals are essential.”
Tomato: Poor man's apple, this delicious fruit is said to cause kidney stones when consumed. "Consuming tomatoes does increase the oxalate level (a main component of calcium stones), but only by 10%. The rest is naturally produced by the body. Tomato has lycopene, which is instrumental in preventing cancer."
Papaya: Men and women alike do not prefer eating this fruit as they consider it to be ‘heat inducing’. “It is a very healthy fruit and good for the skin. It helps in cleansing the body from inside as well as outside. This fruit has myriad health benefits and can be used as a facialpack as well.”
Fish: Seer fish is the healthiest fish to consume as it does not have many bones and a lot cleaning is not required. “It is not the only fish that is good for health – mackerel, sardines and tuna are also equally healthy.”
Meat: Consuming red and white meat is good for health as they contain proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals required for the body. “Initially meat was considered to be a powerhouse of nutrients, however, after the concept of processed food came into being, people have become wary. Meat causes various types of cancer and heart diseases. It is best to avoid it.”
Dal: Consuming horse gram and Bengal gram causes flatulence, but Sabita says, "Eating dal in small quantities will not cause gas, it is a good source of protein and fibre and must not be avoided in a person's diet. It is necessary for a person to consume one cup of dal every day."
Coconut: It is one of those ingredients that seem to be oscillating between the good and badfood category. “Every part of a coconut is healthy, including coconut oil. Our ancestors used to cook in coconut oil and they lived long and healthy. Though coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it is good for the body.”
Gingelly oil: Made of sesame seeds, it is considered bad for health. “Our ancestors used gingelly oil for cooking, but after various controversies surrounding its ill effects, they stopped. However, today research shows that it is good for health and can be used for cooking.”
Ghee: Though the smell and the flavour are mouth-watering, consuming too much ghee will cause adverse effects on health. “It is a common misconception that ghee helps in digesting food. May be to an extent it may be true, however, it does not mean that you can fry your food in ghee. That will increase the cholesterol in your body and ultimately affect your heart.”
Eggs: Regularly consuming raw eggs can be bad for your health. Many believe that cooking an egg makes it lose all its nutrients, but that does not hold true. “Cooking an egg will not break down its nutrients into unusable pieces. Egg can be consumed however a person desires but consuming it raw sometimes may have adverse effects.” Also, most people consider egg whites to be healthier than yolk, this is not true. It is a misconception that whites are protein rich, whilst yolks are full of cholesterol and is bad for the heart. ”Egg yolks have good cholesterol required for the body. It is incorrect to consume only the white or the yellow – consuming whole egg has more health benefits.” Eat an egg every day to stay healthy and happy.
Before following such baseless myths, it is imperative to consult a nutritionist or a health practitioner to cross-check the various illnesses or health benefits that a food product is said to hold.
Other cooking myths…
• Seeds make tomato sauce bitter.
• Cold water boils faster than hot water!
• Warm lemon produces more juice than a cold lemon.
• Searing meat seals in the moisture.
• Cooking in microwave destroys nutrients.