Certain chemicals formed in your cooking give food a more desirable taste and smell, but could they be making you sick? The answer may surprise you.
Research shows that chemicals called AGEs (advanced glycation end products) promote chronic, low-grade inflammation in your body and can lead to a variety of premature diseases. While your body makes AGEs internally, if you eat a modern, highheat- processed and animal-rich diet, you may be adding significant fuel to the fire without realizing it.
The health effects of AGEs include the stiffening of your blood vessels, a dysfunctional heart, kidney disease, accelerated aging, and earlier diabetic complications affecting the eyes, nerves, and kidneys.
AGE sources in food
Foods that contain the highest levels of AGEs are animal products such as meat, chicken, fish, and cheeses such as parmesan and cheddar that are both aged and high in fat. High-fat spreads include butter, margarine, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. Milk and plant foods such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables contain the lowest amounts.
How you cook food is also important. High heat and dry cooking methods like grilling, frying, roasting, toasting, and barbecuing all accelerate the formation of AGEs. For example, dry heat promotes AGEs formation by 10- to 100-fold! So it’s no surprise that even lean-grilled chicken fillets or pan-fried trimmed steaks are absolutely loaded with AGEs. In the plant food category, crackers, chips, and cookies also contribute high levels. Indeed, cookies have ten times more AGEs than bread.
Obviously, you can significantly reduce the amount of AGEs by the way you cook your food.
Three ways to reduce AGEs
- Use moist cooking methods such as steaming, poaching, stewing, and boiling.
- Cook over a low heat.
- Marinate foods in acidic liquids such as lemon juice or vinegar before cooking.
People who regularly eat foods that have been prepared with minimum amounts of meat and cheese and that are cooked with moist heat (such as soups and stews) can realistically cut their daily intake of AGEs in half.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.