Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cook 02

A little more on cooking

1.Start basic: When preparing a meal I always start with the basics; carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and calories. Making sure to build a meal that is nutritionally balanced is difficult at first. Putting those four elements together can seem sometimes paradoxical and often adds significant complexity to a dish, but after a week of meals this becomes second nature.

a.Carbohydrates: the more complex the better. Whole grains and brown rice are common examples—these generally retain a significant number of their nutrients and are processed minimally. The next order is less complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta, and white rice. These are easier to use because their flavors are milder; they aren’t unhealthy, but they do need a significant boost to make them ‘wholesome’. The final order is sugar; these can be complex sugars as in fruits or they can be highly refined and very simple like the white sugar used for baking.

b.Proteins: proteins come in a variety of forms; sometimes you have to combine foods to make complete proteins. Nuts, beans, dairy, and meat are the main categories of protein. The problem is that all of these options can become very high fat foods. High fat foods taste good and give depth to a dish but they also add calories. Be conscious of this trade-off. If you are vegetarian or a vegan remember that there are useful combinations of vegetables that create complete proteins; a simple google search yields a pretty comprehensive list—ex: squash and rice.

c.Vitamins and minerals: these are the nasty things known as fruits and vegetables. They actually can be quite easy to add to a meal without activating the gag reflex. A simple rule when identifying the vitamin content, “the deeper the color the better.” Dark veggies like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and arugula are chock full of essential nutrients that keep a body moving. Don’t try to cheat with multi-vitamins or cereals like Total. The body cannot absorb all of the required nutrients for a day in one sitting; most of these pass straight through the body. It is much better to eat them over the course of a day.

d.Calories: people have different caloric requirements. Lance Armstrong can consume up to 12,500 calories a day. A typical male can consume between 2500 and 3500 Calories a day without gaining weight. A typical female can consume 2000 to 3000 Calories similarly.

e.Balance of the elements: it is important to note the need for customization to each individual. If you are an athlete it is probable that you need a substantial amount of everything with a 2:1 carbs and protein ratio—also a lot of potassium which is found in oranges and bananas. If you lead a more sedentary lifestyle a regular balance is likely with an emphasis on eating only to your individual caloric needs—a pound of fat can take approximately 3500 Calories of exercise to be lost. An over-eater who takes in an extra 250 Calories per day could theoretically gain over 26 pounds in one year. Just as similarly, an under-eater could lose 26 pounds and easily drop out of a healthy range of living. (Weight loss is of course more complex than intake and output in a simple equation but the point remains that over- or under-eating are extremes that are important to be wary of) It’s about balance and moderation.