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Healthy Cooking PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brian Dunning   

Everyone seems to think that their particular community is the world headquarters of woo, since we all seem to be bombarded by it all day every day. Well, I'll put my own community, Orange County, California, up against any other to vie for such honors.

One of these little faux magazines - really just advertising rags - that we get is called the OC Gazette. Nearly every article is a self-promotion from some purveyor of woo. One that caught my eye was unique in that virtually every sentence is an untrue, yet popularly believed, claim. It's the "Healthy Cooking" column, written by a self-described "Master Health Chef", whose name I will omit. Just the slug alone was worth the price of admission:

Did you know? Most cooking methods rob food of more than half its nutrients, add unhealthy fats, and taint it with harmful metals and chemicals.

There is literally not a single word of truth in that sentence. Yes, cooking does cause chemical reactions, and this (I suppose) could be described as "robbing food of nutrients". Often these chemical reactions are necessary to make the food palatable, digestible, or safe. These changes are usually minor and barely detectable, and they are merely the first step of the process that your digestive system completes. Cook it or not, once it gets into your intestines, the same compounds remain for your body to absorb.

As for adding fats and metals, well, unless the Master Health Chef has mastered transmutation and can make gold from lead, no. Cooking does not conjure up fats or metals where none existed before.

Just say no to boiling. Boiling, steaming, or microwaving vegetables can strip them of their nutrients. The very best way to prepare vegetables and fruits is to eat them raw. This preserves all the nutrients and also the enzymes that are needed for healthy digestion.

The Master Health Chef repeats his misunderstanding of food and the body. Your body synthesizes the digestive enzymes that it uses - it does not get them from the food you eat. This is a very common misconception, but it's something a first-year nutrition student knows. How anyone who calls himself the Master Health Chef could be so dramatically wrong about such a fundamental point is astonishing. Enzymes that you consume never survive as enzymes once they are digested (with a very few exceptions, and those are enzymes that have nothing to do with digestion).

And, again, the enzymes that are present in the vegetables are going to be broken down into their constituent amino acids by the time they get to your intestines. You can start this process in the cooking pot, or in your mouth. It makes no difference to the end result.

The Saladmaster™ cookware provides a cooking surface that will not leach metals or chemicals into your food...

Gotta love this. An old advertising technique: Say something that's probably true of all similar products; but just by mentioning it, you create alarm about the competition. "The Saladmaster™ doesn't leech poisons into my food?? That must mean that my non-Saladmaster™ cookware probably does!!"

...Plus, it doubles the number of nutrients retained in your food!

Wait a minute, wasn't he telling us above that cooking robs food of half its nutrients? The Saladmaster™ leaves twice as many, that means it leaves all the nutrients! How does it do it? What's the mechanism? By what process does the Saladmaster™ transfer an equal amount of heat into the food, but in such a magical way that its special heat causes no chemical reactions? Obviously, this is just a lie that he pulled out of his ass. He got his readers all amped up about nutrient loss, so while he's hocking his pots, might as well repeat the same claim.

I'll grant that the Master Health Chef may be a master of woo marketing, but not of either Health or being a Chef. He doesn't seem to know any of the basics of how cooking works, or of how the body uses food. Good thing we have experts like this educating us in the "Healthy Cooking" column.

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Oh yeah?
written by Skeptic, April 06, 2009
>>>>Everyone seems to think that their particular community is the world headquarters of woo, since we all seem to be bombarded by it all day every day. Well, I'll put my own community, Orange County, California, up against any other to vie for such honors.

I'm from the holy land, where people who are in effect the same ethnically and culturally and live, literally, a few feet from each other are killing each other because they believe in a different sky pixie... while the western world, which in the main believes in a third sky pixie, tries to mediate.

Beat that.
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written by MadScientist, April 06, 2009
I thought this was going to be an article on the 'raw food movement', but the guy sells cookware as well? Huh. Try eating certain beans raw and see how good that is. I've never heard of a "Master Health Chef" before - now I have something to rile my chef buddies with. Look out Giancarlo, I've got some BS that'll really get you steaming...

@Skeptic: Yeah, it's hard to beat that one. Ireland was torn apart (in part) by two factions believing different things about the same sky fairy. At least it's looking like the (Northern) Irish are tired of all the senseless killing and there may finally be a lasting peace. It's a hard cycle to break though when friends and family have been killed by the evil "other side". Peace can start when enough people say "I've lost a lot, but I want no revenge". In some parts of the world that I've travelled through people still value revenge above all else and you have communities always worried about when their neighbors will raid their village again.

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written by Steven R, April 06, 2009
"There is literally not a single word of truth in that sentence."

I think you are going a bit far there brian. Cooking and prossesing food does remove nutrients from food, ranging from vitamins to proteins. Different cooking methods effect different nutrients in different ways and can have a large impact on said nutrients. (you can see a handy dandy chart here http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/f...n5_tbl.pdf ). Cooking adds no fats to food of course, unless the fat is added to the cooking method.Infact, fats are removed in various cooking methods. The claim "Most cooking methods rob food of more than half its nutrients" isnt entirely inaccurate, though half is a bit extreme.

Just by the language used, the product is BS. That doesnt mean some of the claims arent BS, even if they are abused in peculiar ways. For the record, the only claim here that is practically valid is that cooking food reduces the content of certaint types of nutrients.

-Steve
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written by Thanny, April 06, 2009
Cooking does destroy some nutrients, no question. But in all cases, it also makes nutrients available that otherwise would be locked away in the raw product. Something like a potato, for example, is pretty much indigestible without cooking.
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written by ckitching, April 06, 2009
I'm guessing he's comparing boiling vegetables in water for far too long versus another cooking method. It's shocking, but apparently water soluble nutrients dissolve in water very easily. Barring some method of rewriting the rules of physics, no simply cookware will change that. There are better (and cheaper) ways to reduce how many water soluble nutrients are removed from your cooked food. Changing the cooking method is one. Simply reusing the water in another part of your meal works, too.

But looking at the site for those products, and the promotion of titanium for the cooking surface, I'm sure it's mostly nonsense. Promoting expensive metals seems to be a favourite for those who wish to separate foolish people from their money.
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Moo
written by Kuroyume, April 06, 2009
I'm not going to forward myself as any type of authority on this, but I do know that many herbivores that have to eat much vegetation have very complex processing to 'mash' the nutrients out of the raw vegetation. Cows. Need I 'ruminate' on that much? smilies/wink.gif They have four stomach chambers and regurgitate the partially digested food as cud to be rechewed and then redigested just to extract enough nutrients, proteins, and energy from the raw vegetation to make what they eat worthwhile. Some animals even use stones in the stomach (gastropods) to pulverize the vegetation enough that it can be further digested.

Humans are not ruminant bovines and don't have systems specialized for efficient digestion of vegetable matter. We, especially, don't have gastropods. As noted, cooking can act as an external system to achieve what we humans can't do with our generalized (omnivorous) digestive system and actually improve nutrient digestion. You (general) have eaten corn on the cob and seen the output, right? And that's cooked!

On meats, I'm sure some nutrients are destroyed in the cooking process. But do you really want to eat all of your meats raw (though I do enjoy sushi and sashimi on ocassion)? One reason we cook meat is to kill harmful things possibly within it such as worms, e-coli, botulism, and so on. Same for vegetables to a lesser degree (need I mention the recent lettuce, spinach, and tomato scares). Should we stop 'Pasteurizing' milk? This is a 'cooking' process - though the temperatures are below boiling. Afaik, this is an international standard. It is required by the USDA in the United States.

On a more direct note to the original advert being criticized, this isn't as much pure fabrication as exhuberant exaggeration to scare people into buying a product. A real useful product would provide real data (which is available) and real tests to show the product's efficacy. This one just makes bold-faced claims and ridiculous assertions.
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Contamination by metals
written by rosie, April 07, 2009
To be fair, it is also possible for cooked food to be contaminated by metals from unsuitable cookware. People who are allergic to aluminum or nickel have to be very careful, and damaged enamel pans may also contaminate the food with whatever metal is underneath. I'm not claiming this is significant or hazardous, but it is detectable. I don't see any hard evidence offered that the Master Health Chef's expensive cookware on offer is any better.
Rather than make up all their claims out of whole cloth these woosters always like to weave in a few otherwise disregarded scraps. A kind of recycling, I guess.
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written by LovleAnjel, April 07, 2009
Not to beat a dead horse, but water-soluble things are removed during boiling (and to a small extent during steaming). If your cookware is not properly seasoned and/or you use high-acid sauces, you can get iron added to your food (I actually encourage that to happen when I cook). Most people and restaurants use way too much oil or butter, thus making their meals fattier.

Once again, a nugget of truth is blown out of proportion to sell something worthless.
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written by fission235, April 07, 2009
Can someone explain why eating cooked food and taking a multivitamin isn't the equivalent of eating raw food? I've heard that multivitamins are bunk, but I don't understand why. They seem to provide everything that's being depleted according to the .pdf linked by Steven R. above.

Thanks
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re: Moo
written by mpoulin, April 07, 2009
Sorry to nitpick, but Kuroyume said "Some animals even use stones in the stomach (gastropods) to pulverize the vegetation"... actually gastropods are a class of mollusc, such as snails and slugs. The name literally means "stomach foot" because they injest nutrients through the same ventral foot they use for locomotion.
I think you confused the term "gastrolith" which is the name given to stones used for digestion by birds and dinosaurs, etc.
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Once again...
written by Griz, April 07, 2009
...the skeptic rebuttal to percieved "woo" (I am starting to hate that word, it's imprecise and condescending) contains as much misinformation as the article under attack.

Brian, please tell us what your qualifications are for making statements like "Cook it or not, once it gets into your intestines, the same compounds remain for your body to absorb" or "And, again, the enzymes that are present in the vegetables are going to be broken down into their constituent amino acids by the time they get to your intestines". Neither of those statements are anywhere near accurate.

Enzymes are proteins, but enzymes are what break down proteins so our body can use them. As far as cooking methods are concerned, any cooking method that uses water changes the nutrient content of food. Water is a solvent. Boiling food can remove nutrients from the food. Soaking food in a solution containing fat, water, alcohol, or oil can change the nutrient content of the food, especially depending on the salinity of the soaking liquid. Some parts of food are heat sensitive. On the other hand, some food MUST be cooked for the nutrients to be available to the human digestive system.

As far as the cooking process adding metals or other contaminants, since the dawn of metal cooking implements it's been well known that iron and acid is a bad combination. Cooking acidic foods in iron or steel vessels can discolor the food and make it taste metallic. If you cook with non-stick cookware you can't avoid adding minute particles of the non-stick surface to your food.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, and I know several people will pretend not to know what I'm saying: if you want to be taken seriously as a proponent for science and rationality, you must be scientific and rational and do your homework before you rant about something. This article was based in an emotion, fear, anger, disgust, whatever, and banged out without the slightest bit of homework on the part of the author. If you want to a point that something is ignorant nonsense, you have to field something other than ignorant nonsense or you're just fighting yet another baseless religious war.
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Moo
written by Griz, April 07, 2009
I hope I don't have gastropods in my stomach unless I just had a nice plate of escargot.

Your mention of milk pastuerazation is well placed though, because that is a great example of a food whose texture, taste, and nutrient content is changed by a cooking process that we use to ensure safety.
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written by markbellis, April 07, 2009
And the ackee, Jamaica's national fruit and an important part of its cuisine, is poisonous if eaten raw.
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What Me Worry?
written by Realitysage, April 07, 2009
People are living longer and healthier lives more than ever and yet still worry about how food is grown and prepared. I'll have a hot dog cooked over an open fire started with gasoline.... smilies/grin.gif
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Contaminated Lettuce, etc.
written by GusGus, April 07, 2009

Speaking of contaminated lettuce, etc., why don't "they" just irradiate all raw foods before making them available to the consumer? I suppose that the woosters would claim that the food becomes radioactive.
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written by redwench, April 07, 2009
re fission235

Multivitamins provide only one form of a particular nutrient. Generally it's beta carotene for vitamin A, as an example. There are numerous variants of carotene, wiki counts 6. The are all present in nature, and may, or may not, all be necessary for optimal nutrition, as opposed to basic nutrition needed for survival. A multivitamin will keep you from developing malnutrition, but the singular source may have undesirable consequences. It is theorized that consuming large quantities of beta carotene may increase your likelihood of cancer, but eating large quantities of vegetation will not.
Obviously, minerals don't quite fall into that category. Iron is iron, although some compounds are more readily utilized by the body than others. In short, a multivitamin is much less desirable than eating a healthy diet, although in the absence of the latter, the former is probably not a bad idea.
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written by Kuroyume, April 07, 2009
I hope I don't have gastropods in my stomach unless I just had a nice plate of escargot.


Oops. That sounded like the right word but it appears to be 'gastroLITHS'. Thanks for jogging my memory! I would still avoid gastropods in my stomach altogether. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by knitwit, April 07, 2009
This kind of "woo" is everywhere to be sure. My local co-op (Milwaukee) puts out a newsletter full of ads for "alternative"
"therapy" and nonsensical nutrition advice. I shop at the co-op because I like to support small family-owned farms and I think organic usually tastes better (although this is changing as "big organic" takes hold, hence I've planted a garden and subscribed to a small farm for the season).

I wrote to Huffington Post for the third time (they do not seem to reply) to complain about a woman whose column carries a large headline referring to herself as DR. Fitzgerald. You have to click on BIO to find out that she holds "degrees" from an acupuncture college and has a "doctorate" in homeopothy! While today's column had no harmful advice, there was nothing in it that your grandma wouldn't tell you (eat your vegetables).

It seems to me that she is trying to let people think she is an M.D. Her headline should be followed by the actual letters of her "degree". Personally, I think there should be a disclaimer at the very least. I would also like these "colleges" to be scrutinized and shut down, but that will probably happen the same day they board up the churches.
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written by Trish, April 07, 2009
If the only food were raw food, life would not be worth living! No chocolate, no pasta, no bread, no wine....
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written by Shpiz, April 07, 2009
in response to
"Oh yeah?"- written by Skeptic

I usually dont comment, but what you said about the holy land made want to add my little view of the cheerfull insanity here (i am your neighbor of sorts).
on top of all that he said, i work in a place where the main reason for my employment is that i am a gentile (not jewish ) and i work on Shabbat and other "holy days". me and another guy refer to ourselves as the "Gentile Desk".

just wanted to state that despite the high regard in which the writer of htis article holds OC, i am pretty sure that in a woo competition we (israel) have more than enough to top that.

good day smilies/smiley.gif

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written by Brookston John, April 08, 2009
We get one of these "Weekly Shopper" rags here, too. A couple of years ago, it actually had some local news and events in it, but now it's nothing more than packaged Woo from syndicated Chiropractor or Acupuncturist and coupons for the fake-bake.
It barely makes it across the highway from my mailbox to the trash can.
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written by Caller X, April 08, 2009
written by Griz, April 07, 2009
...the skeptic rebuttal to percieved "woo" (I am starting to hate that word, it's imprecise and condescending) contains as much misinformation as the article under attack.
Kudos to Griz for pointing this out. I've said it before: saying "woo" makes some folks feel like they're finally sitting at the cool table.


Brian, please tell us what your qualifications are for making statements like "Cook it or not, once it gets into your intestines, the same compounds remain for your body to absorb" or "And, again, the enzymes that are present in the vegetables are going to be broken down into their constituent amino acids by the time they get to your intestines". Neither of those statements are anywhere near accurate.


Wow, that's sort of an inconvenient truth. Let's see, there's pepsin and trypsin produced in the stomach, and whatever that enzyme is in pineapples and mangos (or is it more than one?). Anyway, enzymes do their work in the stomach and they're irrelevant in the intestines.

"Cook it or not.." As others have implicitly pointed out, cooking breaks down cell walls in plants, making more nutrients available, since humans are not equipped to digest cellulose.
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Long chains
written by RobbieD, April 09, 2009
My understanding of this issue is as follows, and I apologise if someone above has made the same comment. The cooking process breaks down the long-chain molecules in the food into shorter chains. The benefits of this are simply that the human gut is rather inefficient and cannot absorb long-chain molecules, but the short chains can readily pass through the gut walls and sustain the body. The long-chain molecules would pass straight down the human gut and out the other end - so cooking INCREASES the nutritional value of food. It is by cooking food to increase its nutritional value that we have gained a huge evolutionary advantage over the rest of the animal kingdom and can sustain such a diverse diet. End of story.
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written by JasonPatterson, April 09, 2009
written by ckitching, April 06, 2009

I'm guessing he's comparing boiling vegetables in water for far too long versus another cooking method.


I agree with the remainder of what you wrote, but in all honesty, do you really think that he was making a real comparison, or instead was he simply making wild claims in order to sell his junk? I try to be careful of attributing too much in the way of reason to these folks...
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written by Caller X, April 11, 2009
written by Trish, April 07, 2009
If the only food were raw food, life would not be worth living! No chocolate, no pasta, no bread, no wine....


I suppose steak tartare and sushi every day could get boring, but what part of wine production involves cooking?

Brian Dunning originally wrote:

There is literally not a single word of truth in that sentence. Yes, cooking does cause chemical reactions, and this (I suppose) could be described as "robbing food of nutrients". Often these chemical reactions are necessary to make the food palatable, digestible, or safe. These changes are usually minor and barely detectable, and they are merely the first step of the process that your digestive system completes. Cook it or not, once it gets into your intestines, the same compounds remain for your body to absorb.

As for adding fats and metals, well, unless the Master Health Chef has mastered transmutation and can make gold from lead, no. Cooking does not conjure up fats or metals where none existed before.


To be fair, charring meet does create carcinogens, but the dose makes the poison is the toxicologist's mantra. Cooking in a metal container could reasonably be expected to add an insignificant amount of metal to the food.

But I know for a fact that every time I have fried an egg, the cooking process required me to add fat, and it was delicious.

For a debunker, precision is more or less important.

This article is another in a disturbing trend on Randi.org; the eagle does not hunt flies. What's next? Penthouse Letters: A Hotbed of Woo! ?
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