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When the simple act of cooking can harm our health

Cooking food kills most potentially harmful bacteria. However, among the existing cooking techniques, some are harmful to health. What are they and why aren't they safe?


According to the British Food Standards Agency quoted by the BBC on June 29, 2020, high temperature cooking food causes the appearance of acrylamide. It is one of the substances produced during the Maillard reaction (MRP), a chemical reaction that occurs when food is cooked between 90°C and 130°C . This unfolds the aromas and changes the color of foods, especially those rich in carbohydrates. Thus, the starch they contain begins to darken, turns brown and sometimes even takes on a burnt appearance. Roasting, frying or grilling are therefore cooking methods that generate the appearance of acrylamide.

You should also know that this organic product is often used in industry. Indeed, the latter is used in the manufacturing processes of paper, certain dyes and other plastics. However, because of this molecule, consumers are exposed to health problems such as cancer and nerve tissue damage in the long term.

Exposure to oil vapors

In addition to the cooking methods influencing the food itself, the health risk would also be at play at the respiratory level . In any case, this is what a Chinese meta-analysis on the question published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology of 2017 asserts. Here again, it is a question of carcinogenic chemicals:aldehydes . Researchers had indicated that exposure to cooking oil fumes promotes the development of lung cancer.

In the case of acrylamide, the onus is to avoid overcooking food. As for aldehydes, avoid sunflower oil, deep frying, and even using a frying pan. Use oils low in unsaturated fats seems more sensible like rapeseed oil.

Not always healthy alternatives

With progress, other cooking methods have appeared and represent as many possible alternatives. These include the electric hob, the microwave or the toaster. As everyone knows, the criticisms relating to the use of the microwave are rather numerous. On the contrary, steaming would be one of the healthiest.

Even if we decided to eat exclusively raw foods, the problems would not go away. A German study from 1999 followed people on a raw food diet for several years. However, the study had revealed that a large part of the volunteers were underweight . In addition, a third of the women in the study reported an alteration of their periods in terms of frequency.