If you thought your favorite char-grilled kebabs and diet sodas are a way to keep you fit and healthy,think again!
A combination of carbohydrates,protein and fat in food subjected to dry heat and high temperatures produce a toxic species of chemicals called Advanced glycation End products (AGEs).
The AGEs in our food can lead to several diseases and accelerate aging. Diseases associated with their toxicity include obesity,metabolic syndrome,heart disease,diabetes,allergies,autoimmune diseases,digestive disorders,and several inflammatory conditions such as arthritis,asthma,ulcers,aches and pains.
Several studies also suggest that dietary AGEs are involved in insulin resistance (pre-diabetes),visceral obesity (abdominal fat) and plaque formation,leading to heart disease. Continuous intake of these compounds contributes to excessive accumulation into body tissues,which suppresses the immune system and resistance to diseases.
While these compounds are also formed by the body during normal metabolism,the highest contribution is through food. When these are digested and absorbed,they trigger oxidative damage to tissues due to generation of free radicals,which leads to serious health implications. Some of these can be as damaging as tobacco smoke.
Modern day diets are loaded with AGEs. They are commonly found in high protein and high fat foods,diet sodas and foods exposed to unusually high heat such as industrial ovens,deep frying,irradiation and broiling.
The amount of AGEs present in all food categories is also related to cooking temperature,length of cooking time,and presence of moisture. Excessive consumption of these compounds may partly be responsible for early incidence of adult diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,in the younger generations.
There is evidence to suggest that reducing the AGEs in our diets may improve our health and reduce risk of life threatening disease.
While their complete avoidance is not possible,reduced exposure to these compounds can be achieved by:
Using moist cooking methods like boiling,steaming,and stewing food,instead of frying and grilling
Shorter cooking times,cooking at lower temperatures,and by use of acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar.
When cooking,chop ingredients in small pieces to shorten cooking time
Micro-wave the food in presence of sufficient liquid so it does not dry up. The formation of AGEs is delayed in presence of water
Avoiding over-cooking and prolonged exposure to high temperatures
Avoid heating oils to high temperatures while making tadkas and curries.
Avoid fast,highly processed and fried foods
Increase consumption of antioxidants from fresh fruits,vegetables,whole grains,nuts and seeds Cook with plenty of herbs and spices including turmeric,garlic,rosemary etc. Also,consuming protective foods like probiotics (lactobacillus strains) may be protective against the toxic effects of AGEs.
Ishi khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.