Tips To Help You Enjoy and Stick To Home Cooking?

Japanese girls cooking

Credit: Katerina Holmes

Almost any expert on nutrition will agree on the fact that cooking is the most efficient way to eat healthier. So what is the deal with cooking? Well, there is no doubt that when you start cooking for yourself, you will be less likely to feed on processed food.

The ideal is to avoid processed foods as much as you can, which seems like an impossible thing to do in our current society. Processed foods are like addictive drugs.  Most Processed foods have fewer nutrition values and highly pack with  Sugar, salt, and fat. Our brain seems to enjoy more and more of these 3 ingredients, even though too much of them in the body is harmful. U.S top killer diseases like diabetes or coronary heart disease can be directly linked to a processed-food-based diet.

The good news is that this addiction can be overcome by adopting a healthy lifestyle and it will cost you even less money.

The most important aspect of this healthy lifestyle is cooking your own food. Yeah, that’s right! 🙂 🥗

I find it controversial that we love cooking (cooking videos are one of the most video categories with a lot of views on social media), but the majority of us (at least in the U.S) don’t actually cook much. Most people will tell you they don’t have the time to cook on a regular basis or they don’t know how to cook.

Don’t blame us, our modern way of living has forgotten the values of home cooking. Cooking seems to be so old fashion for most millennials like me and the younger generation. Even older generations seem to have given that up too.

But if you know the benefits of cooking your own foods, I think you will always make cooking part of your routine no matter how busy you are or your skills at fixing a meal.

Think of cooking as a long term investment for your health and wellbeing

A couple enjoying time at the beach

Credit: Anna Shvets

What you eat today will decide how you feel tomorrow. Did you know the top 10 killer diseases in the United States are tied to poor diet? For example, Coronary heart disease takes more than 300,000 lives each year, and diabetes kills more than 70,000 people.

Diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive cancers can take years to develop in our body. They are usually related to a poor diet and often show up symptoms when they are more advanced and get too complicated.

Poor diet is mostly linked to eating processed and restaurants. Keep in mind that the food industry is a for-profit business. Their business model is to start with cheap food, processed it as much as possible, and making it attractive with salt, fat, and sugar. Not saying that there are no good guys out there,  but it is always good to be mindful of that.

You are in control when you cook at home for yourself. You know exactly the ingredients you are cooking with. Many food experts recommend those whole plant-based foods are the best choice for cooking. Not only plant-based foods are pack with valuable nutrients,  but they are also less in calories.  As a result,  your body will likely get all the necessary nutrients to stay healthy preventing you from many diseases down the road.

Processed foods are a bad food source because most of their nutrients will be removed in the processing.  They are then filled with sugar, salt, and fat to make them tasty. Foods are processed so they could last longer on the shelf before they become perishable. Nutritious dense foods usually will go bad faster because they are more attractive to bacteria and fungi.

Another good side of eating more plants and nuts is that you will increase your fiber intake. Fiber is important for our digestive system and the gut microbiome. (you can learn more on gut microbes here)

Think of cooking as a way to save money

A piggy bank

Credit: maitree rimthong

Cooking can be a good way to make you save money. Fresh whole foods like tomatoes, onions, kales, and other vegetables usually cost less than ingredients that are processed. Even with a small budget, you could cook more meals for weeks. These fresh ingredients are usually more perishable than the processed ones, so stores will want them to go faster to avoid losing money. In consequence, they will be more in sales and at a discounted price.

If you don’t cook much,  you could find yourself spending a lot on every meal you buy. It will also be harder for you to control your monthly food budget.

I remember my college years, I was able to slash my monthly food budget from $200 to $100 by cooking home food instead of eating out.

Think of cooking as an enjoyable activity

A family enjoying home cooking

Credit: August de Richelieu

Before I fell in love with cooking, I thought of it as a burden that could not fit my lifestyle. I was too busy with school and other activities that cooking was something at the bottom of my priorities.

One thing that triggered my desire to start cooking was that I was living in a food desert area in St. Louis, Missouri. A food desert is an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food, in contrast with an area with higher access to supermarkets or vegetable shops with fresh foods, which is called a food oasis.

Not only I would spend time and energy to go buy food, but I was also not a big fan of the fast-food restaurants and other types of restaurants in the area.  There is nothing worst when paying for food that doesn’t taste good and less nutritious. 😤

When I finally gave cooking a try, I quickly noticed that it actually made me feel better. The time I spent cooking actually helped me relieve all the stress I had from school and life in general.  When I was cooking meals,  I forgot about all the lengthy homework that was haunting me. It was a little like going to the gym feeling. I never look back again and since then cooking has become part of me.

It is true that cooking can be very exhausting and messy, but to help enjoy it, think of it as a hobby that could help you break your routine. You could even play your favorite songs while cooking to make it even enjoyable!

If you are living with your family, delegating cooking tasks to each other could lift the burden and hard work. Plus, it is an efficient way to reinforce bonds with your loved ones and teaching cooking culture to the little ones.

How Much Sodium Is Too Much?

Sodium…our beloved sodium☺️

A salt container on dining table

Credit: Kaboompics .com

We all crave it and love it!😊  it’s not complicated to understand why: sodium helps us to keep our food fresh and safe from spoilage. And our body needs it too. Salt, which is our principal source of sodium is the one most common mineral found in our everyday meals. Salt helps our muscles contract, sends nerve impulses throughout our bodies, and regulates fluid balance so we don’t become dehydrated.

What is sodium anyway?🤔

Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and exists in numerous minerals such as feldspars, sodalite, and rock salt (NaCl).

Sodium is an essential element for all animals and some plants. Sodium ions are the major cation in the extracellular fluid (ECF) and as such are the major contributor to the ECF osmotic pressure and ECF compartment volume.

Salt and sodium are used interchangeably, but they’re different things. Salt is the chemical name for sodium chloride. It contains roughly 40 percent sodium, that’s why health authorities have urged us to consume little of it. As I mentioned earlier, we get most of our sodium intake by consuming salt, so too much would increase our daily sodium recommendation, therefore can elevate our blood pressure.

What is the daily sodium recommendation?

An healthy meal

Vincent Rivaud

About 70% of the sodium we consumed in the U.S is from processed and restaurant foods. If you live in a different place where processed and restaurant food is a go-to to get your daily calories, you should watch out for your sodium intake.

That’s because most processed and restaurant food is chock full of sodium. One salt bagel Dunkin’ Donuts is 4,590 mg (1), one serving fried rice is  2,680 mg, or one package of Oscar Mayer Lunchables Deluxe Turkey and Ham with Swiss and Cheddar is 1,940 mg.

The sodium level in these examples can seem astronomical when you compared it to The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines’ 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day recommendation for Americans.

AN hamburger and french fries

Most processed food has an increased level of sodium
(credit: Polina Tankilevitch)

Because sodium is already in processed and restaurant foods, people are more likely to go over the daily recommended limit.  A better idea is to reduce your consumption of processed food as much as you can and cook healthy food for yourself if you can.  You should also be careful with the salt you add to your cooking food. One teaspoon of table salt is 2,300 mg. (2)

Downsizing our sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily would have major health benefits. A lower-sodium diet is good for people who are older, who are of African American descent, who have high blood pressure or diabetes, or whose blood pressure is gradually creeping upward.

High sodium intake and health risk

Our body needs a small amount of sodium to function, but most of us consume too much of this mineral. Research shows a strong relationship between the amount of salt consumed and raised levels of blood pressure.

When you get more sodium than what your body needs, your kidneys flush out the excess by making more, or saltier, urine. If the body fails to get rid of sodium, though, it accumulates in the fluid between cells. Sodium act like a magnet that attracts water, and as the volume of this fluid increases, so does the volume of blood. This chain reaction will affect the heart, which will now have to work harder putting more pressure on blood vessels. Over time, this can stiffen blood vessels and damage their lining, leading to blood clots, heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. It can also cause calcium losses, some of which may be pulled from bone.

Due to the fact that sodium can cause your body to retain water, it can also affect your body’s appearance by gaining more weight.

Which diet is better to reduce sodium intake?

a pile of potatoes

Natural low sodium foods like potatoes and nuts help keep the salt intake in check

If you are looking for a diet that can help you reduce your sodium consumption, you should consider the DASH diet. the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)  is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and poultry.

The DASH diet plan was developed to lower blood pressure without medication in research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

There are two versions of the DASH diet, which are:

  • Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Both versions of the DASH diet aim to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet compared with what you might get in a typical American diet, which can amount to a whopping 3,400 mg of sodium a day or more.

Here’s at a glance a look at the recommended servings from each food group for the 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet.

  • Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day. (example, bread, cereal, rice, pasta…)
  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day. (example, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens, and other vegetables)
  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day. ( example, bananas, oranges, coconut…)
  • Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day. (example, Milk, yogurt, cheese and other)
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 6 one-ounce servings or fewer a day
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week. (example, almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, …)
  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
  • Sweets: 5 servings or fewer a week. (example, tablespoon sugar, jelly, or jam…)

Nutrition 101: Find Out Why Your Body Need Potassium

A person being diagnosed by a physician

Credit: Karolina Grabowska

The human body is a complex organism made up of organs. These organs themselves are made up of trillions of cells, each with its own structure and function.

It’s vital to maintain the good functioning of these cells because malfunctioning cells can lead to malfunctioning organs.

If you have an organ or organs not doing their job properly, you could get serious health issues.

Why our body needs potassium?

Potassium physical symbol

 

Among many minerals and nutrients, we need for survival, potassium is the eighth or ninth most common element by mass (0.2%) in the human body. It’s a mineral and an electrolyte that helps your muscles work, including the muscles that control your heartbeat and breathing.

Potassium levels influence multiple other important physiological processes, including

  • resting cellular-membrane potential and the propagation of action potentials in neuronal, muscular, and cardiac tissue. 
  • hormone secretion and action
  • vascular tone
  • systemic blood pressure control
  • gastrointestinal motility
  • acid-base homeostasis
  • glucose and insulin metabolism
  • mineralocorticoid action
  • renal concentrating ability
  • fluid and electrolyte balance

What is the recommended daily intake for potassium?

A study that was conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, and Harvard University found that Americans who eat a diet high in sodium and low in potassium have a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and about twice the risk of death from heart attacks. (1)

“This study provides further evidence to support current public health recommendations to reduce sodium levels in processed foods, given that nearly 80 percent of people’s sodium intake comes from packaged and restaurant foods. Increasing potassium intake may have additional health benefits,” said Elena Kuklina, M.D., Ph.D., an investigator on the study and a nutritional epidemiologist with CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

The dietary guidelines recommend that all other people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. In addition, the guidelines recommend that people choose more potassium-rich foods, advising 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.

Studies revealed that less than 2 percent of Americans even reach the recommended daily intake. This makes them highly susceptible to suffer from hypertension due to the fact people are known to consume too much sodium. The majority of sodium that people consume comes from processed foods and food prepared in restaurants.

Potassium and sodium are two nutrients called electrolytes. They work together to help our body function normally and maintain fluid volume in it. Since sodium is more like to be included in our meal every day (make sure you don’t consume too much of it🙂), we should stay mindful of getting enough potassium every day as well.

You are more likely to have high blood pressure if you consume too much sodium and not enough potassium. In general, people who reduce their sodium consumption, increase their potassium consumption, or do both, benefit from improved blood pressure, and reduce their risk for developing other serious health problems.

Kidneys normally remove the extra potassium that your body does not need.  If you have kidney disease, your kidneys cannot remove extra potassium in the right way, and too much potassium can stay in your blood.

Hyperkalemia is the medical term that describes a potassium level in your blood that’s higher than normal. It can be dangerous and cause serious medical problems. So it’s better to go easy on your potassium intake and talk to your doctor if you have malfunctioning kidneys.

Which food should I eat to get enough potassium?

A mix of fruits and vegetables

Credit: Abet Llacer

Potassium is found in vegetables, fruit, seafood, and dairy products. Vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beans, and bananas; dairy products, such as yogurt; and seafood, such as salmon and clams, are good sources of potassium.

Bananas have long been marketed for their potassium content, but they surprisingly aren’t particularly rich in the mineral. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture database, bananas don’t even make the list of the top-thousand food with the highest levels of potassium.

The healthiest common whole-food sources are probably greens, beans, and sweet potatoes.

A medium standard portion size of a baked potato with skin and flesh has 941 mg in potassium, while a medium-sized banana has only 422 mg.

You can get the complete list of food sources ranked by amounts of potassium on this website (here)

 

Recipe: Traditional And Famous Grenadian Dish (oil down)

Traditional and Famous Grenadian Dish

Photo credit: Mariah London

 

Recipe provided By Mariah London

If there is one dish that really represents Grenadian cuisine, it is definitely the oil down, a traditional dish of the island. Used as a main course dish, the delicious oil down is loved by all Grenadians, and others in the Caribbean. Vera Abitbol shared the recipe below with me which
serves 6 people.

INGREDIENTS

2 lb salted cod, cut into chunks
1 large breadfruit, peeled and cut into pieces (or 2 potatoes)
½ lb taro leaves (or spinach leaves), chopped
2 stalks celery
3 carrots, sliced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red hot peppers, thinly diced
2 sprigs thyme
A few stems of chives, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup of coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
Salt
Pepper
5 tablespoons canola oil

INGREDIENTS

1. Cut the cod into large pieces and place them in a colander.

2. Immerse the colander into a large container filled with water and put it in the refrigerator.

3. Desalt for 24 hours, changing the water as often as possible.

4. In a cast iron pan preferably, sauté the onions over medium-low heat.

5. Add the hot pepper, garlic, chives, ginger, thyme, and parsley and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

6. Add the breadfruit, carrots, green bell pepper, celery, and taro leaves.

7. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes over medium/high heat.

8. Add coconut milk, heavy cream, nutmeg, and turmeric.

9. Carefully place the fish in the sauce.

10. Add salt and pepper.

11. Cook for 50 minutes total. 25 minutes over medium heat and 25 minutes over low heat until sauce is reduced.

 

Enjoy!☺️