Why deep-fried food is such a bad food (even in moderate amounts)

deep-fried food

There is really no shortage of bad food out there – probably around 80% of what you can buy at grocery stores or restaurants is harmful to you in some way.  Some items merely require caution – and very close attention to their source and quality.  Some others, however, fall into the “really bad foods” category – no matter where or how you get them.

One common type of such really bad food has more to do with the cooking method used, rather than the ingredients – because if you use this cooking method, you can easily destroy even the healthiest product and turn it into poison.

The cooking method we are talking about is deep-frying.  It is used extensively by restaurants and also, to a large extent – by home cooks, with a wide variety of home-use deep-fryers available on the market.

While the chefs (and sometimes even the scientists who are behind the modernist cuisine movement) have been focusing primarily on perfecting sensory characteristics of deep-fried food (such as French fries) – perfect crisp, creamy center, even color – the health impact of those deep-fried foods has not been in the center of attention much.  And when it has – the focus was on all the wrong things – and changes introduced as a result had the opposite effect.

For instance, until 1990s, fast food restaurants (think McDonald’s) used to deep-fry their French fries in beef tallow.  But as a result of fear-mongering around saturated fat and cholesterol it was replaced by a mixture of plant-based and chemically-extracted oils.

Since then, the matter has only gotten worse.  These days, with the variety of techniques and equipment, people can (and do) deep fry anything – which typically happens in the same plant oil medium.  Most ethnic cuisines (or at least what is represented as such in the Western world) have some staple deep-fried foods to brag about – Indian samosas, Spanish churros, Chinese spring rolls, Middle Eastern falafel, Japanese tempura or the all-American French fries and onion rings are just a few examples.  But there is really no limit to what else you can deep-fry – anything goes and the choices range from jelly beans, Mars bars and Oreos to silkworms and even such oddities as Coca Cola or ice cream.

It is understandable why deep-fried food is hard to resist – this cooking technique definitely creates something very appealing for the human palate.  Food that is crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and infused with flavors originating from the Maillard reaction and caramelization of sugars awakens cravings that seem to be hardwired into our brains.

“Tasty”, however, doesn’t always mean “healthy”.  In fact, deep-fried foods are probably the pinnacle of “unhealthy”.  Deep-fried food is the worst foods to eat in a restaurant, period – and a lot of the reasons behind this statement might sound new to you, until you read them below.

What makes deep-fried food such a bad food?  There is no shortage of arguments – let’s look at a few.

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Halloween candy and children: dispelling the myths

halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, kids of all ages are more than ready to trick or treat and bring home a large variety of colorful and sweet stuff – after all, candy has long been an integral part of Halloween.

And while a lot of adults may easily justify their children’s unlimited indulgence in what seems to be several month’s supply of colorful sugary treats (”oh, come on, let kids be kids!”) – you really should know better, because this practice is not as harmless as you  may think – and the way you handle this today may have a huge impact on their health and development in the future.

Halloween is surrounded by myths, superstitions and misconceptions.  But today we are not going to talk about the typical urban legends, like razor blades in candy, or Bloody Mary.  Today we will be talking about other myths – the myths around Halloween candy – which are probably no less scary, when you know and understand the details.

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Healthy Eating for Kids, Lunch Ideas for School and how to get kids to eat healthy

Healthy Eating for Kids

Promoting healthy eating for kids is a tough task these days – especially when trying to come up with small lunch ideas for school.  School lunch ideas suggested by grocery stores these days are nothing short of horrendous.  Bagged, boxed, canned and plastic-wrapped cornucopia of lunch options that are ready to consume in 3 minutes after pulling them off the pantry shelf seem to be a convenient and time-saving option.  But they are also a primary reason for a variety of health problems kids experience from very early days.  What is the secret to keeping children healthy?  Is there an option to get your kids to eat healthy meals in the age when even adults cannot be reasoned with and would rather opt for convenience and become slaves of their bad habits, rather than consider their own health?

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Importance of reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels – Part II

(Continued from Part I here)

Sodium

While there might be various dangerous sources of sodium, such as monosodium glutamate (or MSG) or a plethora of sodium-containing food additives, such as sodium benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, sodium nitrite and sodium acid pyrophosphate – all of which should be avoided completely, Sodium Chloride (or table salt) is the primary source of sodium in processed foods – it’s a preservative and dehydration agent so it is heavily used to inhibit bacterial activity (bacteria need water to survive and multiply).  And packaged foods usually have a lot of it.

Sodium has been blamed in the past for high blood pressure, but recent studies show that this might have been a bit overstated – while loading up on table salt is probably still not a very wise move (and if you avoid processed foods and, as an occasional condiment, use natural, less-processed or unprocessed salts, such as Himalayan pink, which is less in sodium and higher in potassium than other salts – it would be quite hard to overconsume sodium), what might be more important is the balance between sodium and potassium intake.  Sodium and Potassium are the two most important minerals in your body as jointly they regulate the most vital activities, such as carrying nutrients in and out of all your cells, helping your brain communicate with muscles via sodium-potassium ion exchange, etc. – and potassium offsets the hypertensive effects of sodium. When increased sodium intake is countered by equally sufficient potassium intake, most symptoms associated with excessive sodium intake – such as water retention, hypertension, cramps, heart irregularities – usually go away.

So, if you (sigh) do go for packaged food occasionally, at least try read the label and pick the one that has a balance of sodium and potassium – both are usually prominently disclosed on a nutrition label.  Better yet – keep in mind that foods that are OK to consume from a box, a can or a bag do not usually have high sodium content, because none (or very little) is added during processing – let this be your guide when you pick packaged foods.

By the way, if you are an endurance athlete, involved in competitive sports or generally exercise a lot, you might be losing more than the usual amount of sodium (and other electrolytes) through your sweat, so denying yourself salt completely may not be in your best interest – but, again, try to replenish lost minerals through natural and least processed foods.  Drinking soy sauce (which may contain up to a staggering 7 grams of sodium per 100 g. of the sauce), or even, more realistically – specialized “sports drinks”, such as Gatorade (which usually contain a lot of sugar and, potentially, chemical additives, as you read in Part I) is not the best way to do it.  Feel free to season home-cooked foods to your taste and monitor your reaction – if you feel like you are retaining too much water or, if you already have problems with hypertension – dial back.

Carbs and Sugars

Carb and sugar content is, probably, the first thing I look for, when reading nutrition labels, because of how easy it is to let it through your guard and how important it is not to.  You will notice that I do not separate (simple) sugars, such as sucrose or table sugar and other (potentially more complex) carbs, because, eventually, even complex carbs are broken down by enzymes in your body into simple sugars, such as  glucose, and further participate in metabolism in a similar manner.

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Importance of reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels – Part I

It never ceases to amaze me how many people still don’t pay any attention whatsoever to what they eat, despite the fact that even the most stubborn medical minds acknowledge that our diets control pretty much everything that happens in our body – diseases, performance, longevity, mood – you name it.  This is even more discouraging, given that a lot of that information is available to consumers – you just have to put two and two together (and, perhaps, know what to look for).  This article will discuss the caveats of nutrition labels and ingredient lists – what to look for, what to avoid, and how not to fall prey to sneaky marketing tactics used by some food manufacturers. This knowledge should be your governing principle when buying any packaged food.

You already know that to achieve an Alpha-level performance, what you eat matters more than anything else – mess this component up and you will never achieve any meaningful long-term goals in anything else.  The ground rules are simple – most of the time, your best choice is mono-ingredient food.  You know, the stuff that is not pre-packaged, the stuff that only has one ingredient in it – fresh produce, fresh meat, fish, etc.  Once you start venturing into packaged foods, chances are you are going to end up with less of a food, but more of a food substitute – a cocktail of processed offcuts or rejected produce and added chemicals, stripped of most nutrients and cooked using highly inflammatory oils.  Not a very appetizing picture, regardless of the pretty colors and ridiculous claims made on those boxes.

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