Cooking & Cookware

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Five Useful Appliances

Your healthy kitchen should have a variety of appliances designed to make healthful, tasty cooking as easy as possible. Here’s a great starter list.

Electric Kettle
I am a great advocate of green tea, the infusion made from the non-oxidized leaf of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Black tea comes from the same plant, but undergoes a complete oxidation that darkens the leaves and lowers the content of health protective compounds called polyphenols. Green (and black) tea polyphenols may protect the heart by lowering cholesterol and improving fat metabolism.

Strictly speaking, infusions made with the leaves of other types of plants are tisanes, not teas. Many tisanes also offer health benefits – for example, spearmint tisane has a mildly relaxing effect.

But neither teas nor tisanes will help anyone unless they are actually consumed. Since many of us spend most of our time in offices and other places away from home, an electric kettle can be a wonderful aid in bringing the benefits of teas and tisanes to wherever we might happen to be. And even at home, an electric kettle can help by keeping water at precisely the needed temperature, always ready for the next cup.

Citrus Juicer
If you have ever had the good fortune to drink freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, you have undoubtedly been amazed at how much better it tasted than the concentrated or bottled variety. The reason is that fresh juice, unlike commercial juice products, has not been heat treated to kill pathogens that might grow in the interval between extraction and consumption.

While heat treating can help keep our storebought juices safe, it unfortunately also destroys enzymes, lowers vitamin concentrations and alters the taste – juice becomes blandly sweet, rather than featuring a symphony of complex and subtle flavors that can come from fresh fruit, particularly organically grown fruit.

Home squeezed citrus juice may also offer a bevy of health benefits – studies have linked dietary intake of fruit juice with lower levels of inflammation, heart disease and more. And home squeezed juice tends to contain more pulp, a source of healthful dietary fiber.

Juice Extractor
Vitamins and minerals are necessary in the right amounts to support healthy immune function, and fruits and vegetables are the ideal natural sources of these vital micronutrients. The other healthful compounds that fruits and vegetables provide include powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which also have a role in modulating and enhancing immune function, and boost our natural defenses and repair mechanisms to protect DNA and cellular components from toxic insults.

To get the most from these important nutrients, I recommend a diet that includes fresh produce from all parts of the color spectrum. A juice extractor is a convenient way to increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables and reap the benefits they provide.

A blender is one of the most essential and versatile cooking tools you can own, and no healthy kitchen should be without one. From homemade hummus and pureed soups to chopped vegetables and fruit smoothies, a blender allows you to reduce preparation time, create healthier versions of classic foods, tailor tastes to your own preference, and unleash your creative culinary skills.

Although they are a must for all types of blended beverages, blenders can also be used for less-conventional duties. I often recommend using a blender to grind flaxseed, because whole flaxseeds pass through the body undigested, whereas whirring seeds into meal as needed makes healthful components such as omega-3 fatty acids available to the body. A good blender can also grind the softer varieties of dried herbs and roots.

Is toast healthier than bread? Toasting bread makes it taste slightly sweeter because heat converts the starch in bread to dextrose, a simple sugar. This is probably one reason why toast, not plain bread, is a traditional remedy for upset stomachs – some of the work of converting starch to sugar is already done, easing the stomach’s digestive burden.

In the healthy kitchen or elsewhere, toasting must be done carefully – burned food is not healthy. So when one makes toast, it is best done in a quality device that lends even brownness and allows simple and sufficient control of the heat. A good toaster allows precise calibration of browning for a wide variety of whole grain breads.