The method of cooking meat has an impact on our health

27/05/2020

In a balanced diet, eating beef, pork, and chicken, as well as fish, as a source of animal protein, is essential for good nutritional status. However, there are things we should know so as not to affect our health. 

Meat cooking method has an impact on our health. Stock image
Meat cooking method has an impact on our health. Stock image

Armida Sánchez Escalante, an academic at the Food and Development Research Center (CIAD), reveals some myths and truths about its consumption.

Why should we cook meat?

Although it is not necessary to go into great depth, it is known that raw meat is not pleasant to the palate, except for the customs of very few cultures in the world. The scientific reason for subjecting meat to a thermal treatment, that is to say, cooking it, is to make it digestible and appetizing, as well as to eliminate the microorganisms, mainly pathogens, that may be present in it and that could cause us some health problem.

Does the cooking method impact our health?

This is true. The higher the temperatures used to cook meat, the more compounds are generated that can be potentially carcinogenic, such as heterocyclic amines and benzopyrenes, among others. The advice would be to steam or bake, which reduces the risk, since neither of these options is the food in direct contact with the fire.

Although it is true that nothing will happen to us if we sporadically grill or charcoal-broil the meat, we should try to use this method of cooking as little as possible, to avoid a risk factor that could be a trigger for the appearance of some disease, such as cancer.

On the other hand, frying meat with oil entails a rise in temperature, which favors the generation of some changes, both in the oil and in the food, since during this process different reactions occur, which can affect proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and other food components.

It is also important to note that the higher the cooking temperature, the greater the loss of nutrients, especially the vitamins present in the meat, such as those in the B complex. Particularly during frying, dehydration also occurs due to the evaporation of water contained in the meat, affecting its quality, since it will be drier and harder. In addition, it will be impregnated with oil, which can result in it absorbing between 5-40% of the total weight, which considerably increases its caloric value.

Does the meat taste bloody when cooked on average?

Some people claim that they do not like the "average" cooking of meat cuts because the taste of blood is still perceptible; however, this is not correct. When an animal is slaughtered in the slaughterhouse, if the process is carried out properly and according to the established standards, after the death of the animal almost all of the blood is removed. 

In reality what appears to be blood is nothing more than the water of the meat (as it contains about 75%) with the pigments (protein) that give it the characteristic red color. For this reason, it can be mentioned that meat cooked to an "average term" or "three quarters" are the most recommended forms of consumption to take advantage of its nutritional value and not to affect the quality that has been achieved during its production.

Is it safe to cook meat in lemon?

Cooking meat produces alterations in texture, taste, appearance, and nutritional value, this being one of the most common cooking techniques. However, currently, a method is used that consists of applying citrus fruits, such as lemon, commonly on fish, and less frequently on meat, that is, by marinating it.

It is erroneously believed that the use of lemon serves to "cook" the meat; it is true that when the citrus fruit comes into contact with the meat or fish, due to its high acidity it gives the impression that it is cooking, but what actually happens is that there is a change in color and even in texture. The use of lemon does not guarantee that pathogenic microorganisms that may be present in the meat will be eliminated, so if you plan to eat meat prepared in this way, you must be aware of the risk involved, although the most advisable thing to do after marinating is to give it a cooking treatment.

Is eating viscera considered healthy?

According to nutritional guidelines, viscera such as liver and others should be eaten infrequently or avoided if the state of health is not good, as they are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, it is important to mention that they are rich in protein, iron, and other minerals, as well as vitamins (mainly A and D).

Different parts of an animal have different nutritional composition. The head of the cattle and the intestines, for example, have a lot of fat, so eating these foods often can increase our cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, when there are irregular livestock production practices where unauthorized additives are used (including clenbuterol), these invariably get deposited in the animal's viscera and could eventually be ingested, which is not desirable for our health.

How do you know when meat is unfit for consumption?

Sometimes it is difficult to know at first sight when meat is not suitable for consumption. In spite of this, certain indicators can also be detected: firstly, changes in color, considered to be the most important quality attribute for the consumer, as this change can be detected with the naked eye (brown, greenish, brown) as it is different to that of fresh meat. However, other characteristics can be detected that indicates that it will not be suitable for consumption; among these, the perception of bad smell (which can be produced by microbial growth or rancidity when in contact with oxygen) or the presence of viscous or sticky liquid on the surface, among others.

Source: CIAD