Steps to a Healthy, Nourishing Kitchen
Deep nourishment is at the heart of a healthy body and mind. Eating proper nutrients helps all of our body systems function well and keep us feeling tip top. There are various stages we go through over and over again to create our cycle of nourishment. We grow or source our food, prepare it, cook much of it and store it before we get to eat it!
Our food sources matter. Ideally all people would have access to fresh foods that are local, seasonal and and sustainably grown. When fruits and vegetables are locally grown they may be picked at or near the peak of ripeness because they do not have to endure long periods of transportation. They are yummier, fresher and higher in nutrients than produce that is picked early and transported. Eating in-season produce has the added benefit of naturally guiding us to eat a variety of foods, which vary in vitamin and mineral content and increase the overall range of what we consume. Eating foods in season also allows us to eat local foods that don’t have to be shipped for our consumption, which has the added benefit of supports local farmers and the local economy.
If available in your area, buying from local farmers is the easiest way to make sure that the food is the freshest, and that the food is grown in a healthy, sustainable way. Buying food from farmer’s markets or purchasing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes from local farmers are a great way to do this. CSA boxes are available in a lot of communities. They typically provide a box of varied produce weekly at a consistent price throughout the growing season. It also may be possible to get to know local farmers who raise animals for meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.
Michael Pollen, author of the book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto wrote, “We are what we eat eats”, meaning that our food must be healthy itself in order to pass on the proper nutrients to us, and avoid passing on harmful substances to us including harmful chemicals and heavy metals. The healthiest produce is most nutritious when grown in nutrient-rich soil without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, both of which contaminate the produce and cause harm by depleting nutrients from the farm’s soil. Healthy and clean farmland is also important for meat, poultry and dairy.
As we require, animals require healthy conditions to be well. Their needs include eating their natural type of food without contamination, fresh air, non-crowding and the ability to roam. When they grow in this way they are enabled to acquire the nutrients they need to thrive and thus embody many nutrients they require, and also that we require. By sourcing our food with care we can support our own health, the welfare of animals and livestock and our local farmers at the same time.
After you have taken the time to gather your nutritious foods, it would be ideal to hold on to as many of the nutrients as possible during preparation. There are many preparation methods available and some are better than others in holding onto the nutrients you have so carefully gathered. According to the Nutritional Therapy Association (2020), “Through the intentional selection, purposeful preparation, and mindful consumption of nutrient-dense, bio-individually tuned foods, culinary wellness restores functionality and balance within the body systems, allowing natural, optimal wellness to flourish.”
Baking, braising, stewing, slow-cooking and steaming are all great ways to hold onto most of the water-soluble vitamins, which can often be lost during boiling. Frying is another method that works well as long as the fat chosen to fry in is stable in high temperature cooking. Some of the higher temperature cooking fats are ghee, coconut oil, lard, beef tallow and duck fat. Pan frying in olive oil is also a healthy option if the oil is not overheated. Vegetable oils and other polyunsaturated oils easily break down in to free radicals that are harmful to us when used to cook with. Grilling meat may also introduce carcinogens when the meat burns around the edges. Marinating can help reduce these harmful chemicals.
In addition to preparation methods, cookware can also make a difference. Cooking in aluminum pans or and pans that contain nickel can transfer some of these harmful metals into your body. Great choices for cooking include cast iron, enameled cast iron, stoneware, and glass. Stainless steel is also great, but it can contain nickel. It is best to buy stainless steel with no greater than an 18/8 rating, which indicates it contains 8% nickel. In addition, it is best to store foods in glass, unbleached parchment paper or beeswax cloth rather than plastic, to avoid the leaching of chemicals from the plastic into your foods.
Here are some steps that you can take toward creating a healthy, nourishing kitchen right away. Take a look in your grocery store for locally grown foods, check out a farmer’s market or seek out CSA opportunities. Steam, stew, braise or sauté veggies instead of boiling them. Choose higher temperature oils for cooking, and leave nut and seed oils for topping food and salad dressings. With with regard to cooking pans, choose the safest pans that you have at home, or if needed, try investing in one cooking pan made with safe materials, choosing the type of pan that you use most often. Whichever steps you take for healthy, nourishing kitchen are a cause for celebration and food happiness.