We shouldn’t be afraid of food: we should understand it. Stefan Gates
Today I start a series of articles dedicated especially to cooking enthusiasts and those who want to cook decent food without staying for days in the kitchen.
Although culinary art first developed empirically (and many of us cook based on experience), little science will not harm at all. Furthermore, I can say that understanding the processes that happen when we cook will lead to healthier, tasty foods and, why not, to predictable results when cooking.
When I’ll publish recipes, I’ll try to explain in detail the preparation technique and, as far as possible, the physico-chemical phenomena that occur during cooking.
For the first article in this series, I will address a controversial topic: food additives.
What are E’s? Are they bad? Or good?
There are substances added to food for several reasons.
They can be preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, gelling agents and so on.
In fact, any substance (authorized) to be added to a food has an encoded name beginning with the letter E and continuing with a three- or four-digit number.
With a simple search on the internet, you will find pro opinion and especially against the use of food additives.
As usual, things are not always what they seem to be. And that for many reasons.
Some of the food additives are substances used for centuries to conserve, sweeten, color or stabilize food.
Many of the substances used as food additives exist or are naturally formed in food during preparation:
- E621 – MSG, sodium monoglutamate is naturally found in parmesan, meat, fish sauce or tomato);
- E322 – lecithin, found naturally in soybean and egg yolk;
- E160d – Lycopene, is naturally found in tomatoes and red fruits
- E500 – sodium bicarbonate
On the other hand, many of the additives are used to mask inadequate quality products or to make foods more appealing that would otherwise look unattractive.
Industrial food production has led to the development of an entire range of additives to enable long-term preservation, stabilization, coloring or conditioning of the products.
The dose makes the poison
Food additives can also have side effects. We all have sensibilities or allergies to certain foods or substances. This does not mean that everyone must give up certain food.
What would be forbidding peanuts or seafood because there are allergic persons (are among the most widespread allergens)?
Or what would be forbidding the fruit because the ponds contain hydrogen cyanide or completely prohibit the kitchen salt because under certain conditions it works like a poison?
Much more harm makes excess sugar, salt, and fat. But attention! EXCESS!
Each nutrient has its role in the body and the lack of one of them for extended periods of time causes more or less serious imbalances.
- If you are interested in healthy eating, first give up on processed foods as much as possible. Most potentially hazardous substances appear or are added during processing.
- Use unrefined ingredients. For example.:
- Cold pressed oil instead of refined oil
- Whole wheat flour instead of white flour
- Pasta from whole flour
- Brown rice instead of white rice
- Honey, brown sugar or dried fruit instead of white sugar
- Cook at home! Choose simple recipes! At least at the beginning. With time you will gain experience and courage.
- Replace spice mixtures such as Spice Mix for …” with natural ingredients.
- Learn to cook food properly and they will be tasty without using „tricks” from the chemistry manual.
- For enhanced flavor, you can add cheeses, herbs, spices (attention to excesses).
- Do not be afraid of fat. Flavors are most often found there. This not means to drown the preparation in oil, butter or other fat.
- Learn how to use wine and beer for cooking. Alcohol helps develop existing flavors.
- If the meat seems to taste fad, you have just done something wrong with its preparation or the sauce that accompanies it.
- Use, as much as possible, decent quality ingredients.
- Avoid products at unbelievably low prices. Such products always have inferior quality ingredients and a multitude of additives to mask this.
- Avoid products with very long-term warranty. UHT sterilized products are ok.
- Carefully read the product labels:
- shelf life
- the composition
- the name. Do not buy products like „Xyz with a flavor of …”
- Country of origin. If the country does not inspire confidence, why would you buy a product coming from there?
Instead of a conclusion
Rather than demonizing an additive or another, we’d better make sure we do not make excesses and have a balanced diet.
Do sports! Modern man spends too much time on the couch in front of the TV and does not make enough physical effort.
In addition to food, we may well think about the effects of detergents (containing aromatic molecules, often insufficiently studied in terms of long-term effects), the noxes we receive daily (especially those living in big cities) or the cosmetics we use.