How to Cook for Healthy Healing

Plant-based foods are the basis for healthy cooking.

Plant-based foods are the basis for healthy cooking.

A typical Western diet is high in excess sugars, salts and fats; and it is often low in heart-healthy nutrients -- a scenario which can pack on the pounds, heighten inflammation and increase heart-disease risk. A highly sugared diet does little to help a cold and may exacerbate bacterial infections that can follow, including sinusitis. Cook for healthy healing by shifting your focus from highly processed convenience foods to plant-based foods and healthier cooking techniques.

Buy pre-chopped fresh vegetables or rinse and chop them yourself. Seal them in a bag or container and store them in the refrigerator for quick, easy access. Include cruciferous produce, such as folate-rich broccoli, and a variety of pigmented vegetables including carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and bell peppers to increase your levels of immune-enhancing vitamins A and C. Don't forget antioxidant-rich leafy greens such as kale and spinach -- good sources of antibody-boosting vitamin E.

Stock your pantry with healing aromatics, herbs and spices. Onions, for example, contain a mix of sulfur, vitamins C and B and a host of flavonoids, which makes the vegetable a great antibacterial and antiviral remedy. Turmeric, a curry staple and a great way to season fish and lentils, contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, artery-protective properties. Fennel, ginger and mint add intensity and flavor to your dishes while aiding digestion.

Roast, bake or saute your food with a minimal amount of heart-healthy fats to help your body absorb important nutrients such as vitamins A, E, D and K. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can seal in flavor and keep your favorite dishes moist. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal properties. It can balance out the pungent flavors in arugula and kale.

Items you will need

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Herbs and spices
  • Heart-healthy fats

Tips

  • Choose baking, steaming, roasting and lightly sautéing over frying, deep-frying and barbecue-charring to avoid carcinogenic toxins from forming.
  • Limit the amount of oil in your recipe to 1 to 2 teaspoons per serving when using a stovetop pan. Lightly brush oil on your vegetables and lean proteins before roasting or baking. Olive oil works well for most cooking methods. Coconut oil, which is generally stored in a solid state, is great for lightly sauteíng.
  • Add a sprinkling of nuts, oven toasted or raw, to your final stage of preparation to enliven salads, green beans and sauteed leafy greens. Use just 1 to 2 tablespoons, since they are concentrated in fat and calories. A little can go a long way if you chop them finely and distribute well.
  • Steam your vegetables, but add a little oil to boost the flavor.

Warnings

  • Do not overcook your vegetables, as they can lose flavor and visual appeal as well as important nutrients.
  • Watch your fat intake, as protein and starch dishes may be cooked with some oil, and if you include a salad, the dressing on it can certainly add to your fat intake.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by LIVESTRONG.COM
Brought to you by LIVESTRONG.COM
 

About the Author

Dorothy Lauren O’Connor is a registered dietitian. She is the author of "You and Your Blood Pressure: Beating Out Hypertension," co-author of "10 Pounds Down Weight-Loss Meal Plan" and a contributor to "Thin In 10." O’Connor holds a master's degree in nutritional science from California State University, Los Angeles, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images