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Health Benefits of Cooking Your Own Food

November 03, 2014, 12:00 PM
Health Benefits of Cooking Your Own Food
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By going Meatless Monday and making the simple choice to avoid meat one day a week, you already know that you’re doing something good for your health and the health of the planet.

But if you’re looking to make your Meatless Mondays even more meaningful, best-selling author, celebrated food activist and longtime Meatless Monday supporter Michael Pollan has a suggestion: cook your food yourself!

That’s the message of Pollan’s latest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which argues that cooking meals from scratch is a powerful act that can help make our food system more sustainable and make us healthier.
Having previously examined the complex ways modern food is grown (in 2006’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and the nutritional importance of eating real food instead of manufactured “foodlike substances” (in 2008’s In Defense of Food), in Cooked Pollan turns his attention to the significance of how we prepare our meals.

So why is cooking so important?

One reason is that when we cook for ourselves from scratch we’re bound to pick healthier ingredients than those found in processed, ready-to-eat foods. Another is that cooking is prime bonding time, a chance to bring friends and family closer together (this idea is the driving force behind another initiative of The Monday Campaigns, The Kids Cook Monday, which aims to get families to prepare and eat a healthy meal together every Monday).

So this week (and as often as you can going forward) why not cook your own Meatless Monday meal? Stumped on what to cook? Browse through our extensive recipe file for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert ideas.
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Raw fruits and vegetables usually provide more vitamins than their cooked counterparts, but there are ways to prevent nutrient loss while still savoring prepared foods! Careful cooking with minimized heat and water may only result in a 5-15% nutrient loss (compared to processed foods, which can lose 50-80%!)

This week, try steaming or quick sautéing vegetables and cooking meat over low heat to preserve as many nutrients as possible. You might even discover a new favorite recipe!


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