HEALTHY COOKING - POEMS - STORIES

Why every day cooking should be free of frying

Despite the sacrosanct indulgence to the unrestrained pleasures of food which as a Taurus I am the least inclined to abjure, I believe nonetheless that the healthy and wholesome way of cooking and eating that I learnt from both my parents was a gift far more precious than thousand and one libidinous recipes.

Everybody should be made aware that heating foods to the very high temperatures involved in frying, creates free radicals and harmful toxins which are responsible both for aging and for damaging DNA.


As for me I have always liked food which keeps a very definite flavor after cooking and is made from fresh ingredients which are not masked by overwhelming spices or sophisticated cooking. The reason for this preference is because I was brought up by my mother with this type of food: simple and traditional.

 

When I started cooking for my family basic Italian dishes in the traditional way, more or less what you find in cookery books on Mediterranean food, the result seemed to me too heavy for every day consumption. Until one day it dawned on me that this was not the way we used to eat at my family home in Naples during my childhood years. The various meat, fish and pasta dishes that we used to eat everyday were very tasty, but they were also very light and refreshing compared to standard Italian cooking. I suddenly realized that my mother had eliminated from almost all the dishes any frying of fat in the cooking process. This was partly due to the fact that, being a doctor, she was very health conscious and only too aware of the hazard that the overheating of fat at high temperatures poses to our health, and let’s be honest most of the food that we eat every day contemplates this step in its preparation. After all, she used to say, we are only what we eat and breathe. And how easily we forget this basic fact of life! Besides, being a very busy woman, she found it was much less time consuming, to prepare for example a tomato sauce by simply putting all the ingredients together and just let them cook, until the tomatoes have absorbed all the flavor of the vegetables, whilst everything keeps its taste and freshness intact. I assure you the end result was as delicious as the traditional way of cooking but with the added bonus of a much lighter and refreshing taste.

In line with this “philosophy” I would like to say that the scope of this blog is not to share with you some of my recipes, but to suggest a way of cooking that you will start using with most foods you prepare every day at home. Though sharing recipes, I must admit, is one of the pleasures of cooking and eating. That is why I hope that you will send me your special recipes after you have adapted them to non-frying. Every week I will draw a recipe and I will publish it. Send me also a poem, a thought or anything you like and be so courageous as to send also your picture so that we can see who is responsible for the “misfit”. After all women are very good at not taking themselves too seriously: if we were not capable to laugh about our imperfections, we could not survive in this life of jugglers that we are expected to live today more than ever. This is obviously not the blog of a “domestic goddess”...

The utility of Nutrigenetic testing

The picture of my conversion to sensible eating and to the principle of frying-free cooking would not be complete if I didn’t share with you another important event on the road to redemption: my encounter with Nutrigenetics. It was a very close encounter indeed, since my husband started working in this field in 2001 and is considered one of the fathers of this new frontier in nutrition. In very simple words Nutrigenetics is genetics applied to nutrition. With a noninvasive method, a simple swab, a sample of saliva is taken from the mouth and afterwards it is processed in a genetic lab. Thus, a software will deliver you information about your genetic makeup and how you deal, for example, with toxins in your diet. Other important factors are cardio-vascular diseases which also depend on the interaction between genes and nutrition, osteoporosis, inflammation and homocysteine metabolism, alcohol metabolism, caffeine, salt and vitamin metabolism. All these metabolic processes which can be defective and thus cause our most common diseases, depend on some genetic variations that we carry. However, these are not deterministically linked to the onset of disease, for this latter depends a lot on the way we eat and on our lifestyle.

To know which diseases we are more susceptible to and adjust our dietary habits accordingly, is a very effective and responsible way to look after our health and the health of those we love.

Thus I learnt that two genes (GSTT1 and GSTM1) were responsible for my capacity to detoxify my body and I also learnt from my test that one of them in me was switched off. It just didn’t work, a very common variation indeed! This means in simple terms a higher risk of damage to my DNA due to toxins and free radicals, and thus frying foods, especially as a regular part of the diet, was certainly not advisable. Likewise, for smoked or chargrilled food, which when is consumed too often becomes a health hazard to everybody, but it is especially dangerous if your detoxification system is not efficient. I also discovered that many studies have shown that if you eat cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc.) 3 or 4 times a week, the negative effect of this specific genetic variation is neutralized and the damage to the DNA returns to normal levels.

I could not in such small space tell you enough about the effect of this knowledge on my health and the way I feel after I changed my diet and lifestyle accordingly. Small changes, really, but that make a big difference on the long term. To discover that I could do something concrete to help my body and to know important facts about it, has had a dramatic effect on my health and the way I feel and look because it has given a deeper meaning to what my mother used to tell me: We are what we eat and breath and if you can’t always do much about the second you can certainly control the first. We are the sum of our genes and their interaction with the external environment. The most important part of this “outside” environment is the food we eat, our nutrition.

After all, how could I not speak of nutrition in a blog where I will talk mainly of food? We are used to take for granted that the two things go together, food and nutrition, I mean, but this is not the case more often than not. To talk about nice food rarely means to talk about nutrition. There are websites for good food and websites for diets. To talk about the two together is a difficult challenge, but I would fail in my mission to help you to a “low toxin life” as I declare in the name I have given to this blog, if I should not try to merge the two in the effort to show you a way to eat better and enjoy your food as much and more than before.

We can undertake this effort together because, as I said, you are invited to send me your own special frying-free recipes and discuss with me about this healthier way of cooking.

 

Another important discovery of Nutrigenetics which will interest everyone who has had a clash with a scale, and who hasn’t? is that a calorie is not the same for everyone: each one of us has a particular sensitivity to put on weight with carbs and fats. My sensitivity to fats, for example, on a scale from one to ten, is 5.6, it is called medium high, whilst to carbs is 1.3, very low, in fact. Thus I will put on weight if I only look at a sausage, but I can eat pasta and carbs quite painlessly. This is so important when you try to lose weight as I experienced directly, because the tendency is to prescribe low carbs diets who did nothing for me, except for yielding a lot of frustration.

To lose weight is often stressful, and I hate those who will refer to the process as effortless or pleasant. With Nutrigenetics you can help yourself by knowing exactly what makes you gain weight and how much, so that you don’t embark on an enterprise that besides being arduous is also useless, and makes you give up foods that you don’t need to give up, thus wasting time and money . Nothing is effortless in life, and women who are described as effortlessly elegant, effortless charming, effortless shapely, effortlessly this and that, to make us feel they belong to another race, are only the product of silly and exaggerated publicity stunts. To love yourself is an art which you learn gradually in life, by knowing yourself: mind and body, and it has often something to do with the golden rule of striking a balance between two extremes.

 

Learning how to eat in tune with my genetic makeup, what are my strong points and my weaknesses and how I can intervene with my diet and lifestyle to make the best of what nature has given me, has been part of this process of gradually knowing and loving myself for what I am, respecting my body ad not going against it. This has been one of the most significant discoveries about myself, my body and the body of those I love. From our mothers we have learnt one simple lesson which we want to pass on to our children: to care for the body of your beloved ones has got to be the first and foremost form of love. Everything else follows from this…

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