When trying to follow a healthy diet, how you cook your food makes a big difference. Eating boiled foods comes with a number of health benefits and can be a wise choice as Raphael Isagara, 72, states.
In 2016, Isagara realised he had gained a lot of weight and had started getting health complications such as an irregular heartbeat and a bloated stomach.
When he visited a doctor, he was advised to reduce the amount of oils and fats he consumed.
“For many years, I never thought frying everything I ate would affect my health. For six months now, I have been eating only boiled food and the state of my health has changed for the best,” Isagara says.
Catherine Nanozi, a nutritionist with Cathy’s Wellness Centre, says one of the chief benefits of boiled food is the ease and simplicity with which it can be prepared. Boiled foods do not call for time consuming frying and fancy dressing and one is always free to tend to other tasks while the food is getting cooked.
“Another benefit of boiled food is the retention of original flavours. Food that is boiled maintains its taste and can be enjoyed at its best. The flavour is not tampered with by frying or grilling. Some foods such as greens taste best when boiled,” Nanozi says.
According to Nanozi, boiling renders food items such as poultry and meat more digestible. The fats contained in the food are easily dissolved in the boiling water, thus making the food healthy and easier to digest.
Christine Atuhaire, a mother of one, says after giving birth, she suffered from constipation. It became so bad that she had to visit a doctor who advised her to stop eating fried foods and instead eat steamed vegetables and boiled foods, especially pumpkin.
“I stopped frying food and believe me the ‘cure’ was immediate.
Surprisingly, when you learn to cook the food well, boiled food can taste better than fried food,” she says.
Dr William Lumu, the President of Uganda Diabetes Society, says most foods contain natural oils, both plant and animal.
Boiling these foods without adding extra oils is recommended as many of the oils used raise the level of cholesterol in the blood resulting in diseases of the heart such as heart failure, type II diabetes and other chronic conditions.
“Boiled foods are free of all microorganisms that may enter our body and cause damage to our digestive system.
Boiling being a slow process of cooking over high temperature sterilises food and kills all the microbes and germs present in the food items,” Dr Lumu advises.
He also says with boiled foods, there is retention of nutritional value and original colour, especially if the overall boiling time is kept to a minimum.
Agnes Baku Chandia, the head of nutrition at the Ministry of Health, says eating boiled food will reduce stomach inflammations that are normally caused by bacteria. “This is because most foods already contain natural fats and oils that keep the digestive system clean,’’ explains Chandia.
According to her, boiled food and vegetables are a recommended weaning option for babies. A boiled mashed potato or boiled vegetable soup fills the baby with all the essential nutrients and is easy to digest.
“Steamed food contains low calories and holds a high water content.
This helps in breaking down the complex compounds present in the food into simpler forms that are chewable,” she adds.
Spice it up with herbs
“Boiling or steaming food does not mean just adding water and salt. These foods can also be spiced with natural herbs such as rosemary, sage and basil,’’ Nanozi tips.
She adds that turmeric can be used instead of curry powder. It not only adds a nice aroma to the food but is a recommended source of curcumin that is effective in boosting the immune system.
Other healthy options
Dr William Lumu, the President of Uganda Diabetes Society, says another good way to cook food is by steaming. It limits the destruction of nutrients and helps in breaking down the fibre content that releases other nutrients ensuring their absorption when eaten. Vitamins such as C and E and minerals such as folic acid are also obtained.
This is not commonly used but retains the food value. It is usually preferred for foods such as meat, chicken, potatoes and matooke.
How to prepare vegetables
According to Catherine Nanozi, a nutritionist with Cathy’s Wellness Centre, vegetables are best served when steamed or boiled. Cut the vegetables into uniform sizes so that they cook at the same time.
She says vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli should be cooked for not more than seven minutes. “After washing, add salt,cover and bring to the boil,’’ Nanozi says.
She advises that in case one wants to steam mixed vegetables at the same time, then vegetables such as carrots and squash that require more cooking time (about 15 minutes) should be prepared first. Add those that cook in less time at the last minute. Perfectly cooked vegetables should be soft but crunchy.
Spinach and cucumber: three minutes.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower: five to seven minutes.
Carrots and squash: 15 minutes.