Eat Smart with 9 Heart-Healthy Cooking Techniques

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Steaming and stirfrying are great ways to lower the fat in your food when cookingNeed some ideas for preparing healthier meals at home? Learn which cooking methods can help you whittle away your waistline with tips from The DASH Diet for Hypertension: Lower Your Blood Pressure in 14 Days—Without Drugs, by Thomas Moore, M.D.

Microwave: Microwaving cooks foods faster than most other methods. You don’t need to add fat to meat, poultry, or fish, and you use little water for vegetables. Micro-cooking is an excellent way to retain the vitamins and color in vegetables. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for best results.

Steam: Steaming is a good method for cooking vegetables without using fat. Try this method for both frozen and fresh vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, carrots, spinach, and summer squash. Use a vegetable steamer or colander to hold the vegetables and place it in a pot with a little boiling water. Cover and cook the vegetables until they are just tender to preserve their color and vitamins.

Braise: Braising is used mainly for meats that need longer cooking times to become tender. Root vegetables are also good braised. Brown meat first in a small amount of oil or its own fat, then simmer in a covered pan with a little liquid. For the liquid, try using meat or poultry broth, cider, wine, or a combination of these for added flavor.

Barbecue: Roasting foods on a rack or a spit over coals is a fun, lower-fat way to prepare meat, poultry, fish, and even vegetables. Barbecuing gives a distinctive smoked flavor to any food. Trim the fat from meat to prevent a flare-up of flames and to reduce calories. If seasoning grilled food with a sauce, try one with less salt, sugar, and fat.

Broil: Broiling is a quick way of cooking foods under direct heat without added fat. It’s great for poultry, fish, and tender cuts of meat. Use a broiling pan or rack set in a shallow pan to allow fat to drain away. If basting, use lemon juice, fruit juice, or broth for added flavor. Vegetables like onions, zucchini, and tomatoes can also be broiled.

Stir-fry: Quick and easy, stir-frying requires relatively little fat and preserves the crisp texture and bright color of vegetables. Heat a wok or heavy skillet, add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, add food, and stir constantly while cooking. Start with thin strips or diced portions of meat, poultry, or fish. When the meat is almost done, add small pieces of vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, or green onions.

Roast or bake: Roasting takes somewhat longer than other methods but requires little work on your part. Poultry and tender cuts of meat may be roasted. Cook in the oven, uncovered, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan to drain the fat and allow the heat to circulate around the meat. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and onions can be baked. Simply wash, prick the skins, and place the vegetables on a baking sheet in the oven.

Boil or stew: Foods are cooked in hot liquids in these low-fat, low-salt methods. The liquid left after cooking can become a tasty broth or the base of a sauce; chill the liquid first and remove any fat that rises to the top. Starchy and root vegetables, such as potatoes, corn on the cob, lima beans, and turnips, are often boiled.

Simmer: Tough cuts of meat can be tenderized by simmering them in liquid for several hours. (A simmer is a slow boil in which bubbles rise gently to the surface and barely break.) Add vegetables and herbs for an aromatic blend of flavors without salt.


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Megan Scott is the newest member of the JOY clan. After meeting John Becker in Asheville, North Carolina, she was warmly welcomed into the family and the happy couple was married on September 29, 2012. After graduating with a degree in French literature, Megan worked in a bakery where she honed her pastry skills and developed a passion for high-quality baked goods of all kinds. This experience with fast-paced industrial kitchen work inspired her to create her farmer's market baking business, The Little Blue Baking Company. Megan's work for JOY involves a little bit of everything. She is JOY's blogger-in-residence, she works with John on digital projects, newspaper articles, and food photography, and has spearheaded the Joy of Cooking's kitchen garden and flock of chickens. During her time off, she maintains a lively sourdough starter, sews, spins wool, and does yoga.


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David B. Agus, MD, author of the New York Times and international bestsellers The End of Illness and A Short Guide to a Long Life, is a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California and heads USC’s Westside Cancer Center and the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. He is one of the world’s leading cancer doctors and pioneering biomedical researchers, and is a CBS News contributor. He lives in Beverly Hills, California.


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