Scrolling through social media, reading your favorite magazine, or visiting popular websites exposes you to endless information about nutrition and health — most of which is incorrect. Even qualified health professionals, including doctors and dietitians, are to blame for spreading misinformation about nutrition to the public, adding to the confusion.
Here are 20 of the biggest myths related to nutrition, and why these antiquated beliefs need to be put to rest.
Though creating a calorie deficit by burning more energy than you take in is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss, it’s not the only thing that matters. Relying solely on calorie intake doesn’t account for the large number of variables that may prevent someone from losing weight, even when on a very low calorie diet. This concept also fails to emphasize the importance of sustainability and diet quality for weight loss.This can lead to choosing low calorie, nutrient-poor foods like rice cakes and egg whites over higher calorie, nutrient-dense foods like avocados and whole eggs, which isn’t the best for overall health.
Millie- Meeting your calorie needs (1800 to 2000 calories a day) from healthy foods that truly meet your nutrient needs is the ONLY way to lose weight. Exercise or caloric restriction does not work
Though this antiquated and incorrect theory is slowly being put to rest, many people still fear high fat foods and follow low fat diets in the hopes that cutting their fat intake will benefit their overall health.
Dietary fat is essential for optimal health. Plus, low fat diets have been linked to a greater risk of health issues, including metabolic syndrome, and may lead to an increase in insulin resistance and triglyceride levels, which are known risk factors for heart disease.
What’s more, diets that are higher in fat have been proven just as effective — or even more so — than low fat diets when it comes to encouraging weight loss.
Of course, extremes in either direction, whether it be a very low fat or very high fat diet, may harm your health, especially when diet quality is poor.
Millie- I completely disagree with what they say about this. It takes 3 balanced meals a day to meet your nutrient needs.
Eating frequent meals throughout the day is not the best way to promote weight loss. Research shows that a regular meal pattern may be best for health.
The rising interest in low calorie, low carb, sugar-free foods has led to an increase in products that contain non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS). While it’s clear that a diet high in added sugar significantly increases disease risk, intake of NNS can also lead to negative health outcomes.
For example, NNS intake may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by leading to negative shifts in gut bacteria and promoting blood sugar dysregulation. What’s more, regular NNS intake is associated with overall unhealthy lifestyle patterns (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Although macro coaches may lead you to believe that the ratio of macronutrients in your diet is all that matters when it comes to weight loss and overall health, this narrow-minded take on nutrition is missing the bigger picture.
While tweaking macro ratios can benefit health in many ways, the most important factor in any diet is the quality of the foods you eat.
Though it may be possible to lose weight by eating nothing but highly processed foods and protein shakes, focusing solely on macronutrients discounts how eating certain foods can either increase or decrease metabolic health, disease risk, lifespan, and vitality.
Millie- Your diet needs to be totally made of of real food, not products. If it needs a label or comes in a box, don’t eat it. Only real food, healthy fats, high quality animal proteins and lots of vegetables and salads should be included every day.
Often labeled as “unhealthy” by those in the nutrition world, white potatoes are restricted by many people wanting to lose weight or improve their overall health. While eating too much of any food — including white potatoes — can lead to weight gain, these starchy tubers are highly nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy diet. White potatoes are an excellent source of many nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, and fiber.
Plus, they’re more filling than other carb sources like rice and pasta (which are empty calories and contain almost no nutrition and are very hard to digest), and can help you feel more satisfied after meals. Just remember to enjoy potatoes baked or roasted, not fried ( not true- potatoes fried in vegetable oils are horrible for you, because heated vegetable oils are highly toxic and inflammatory) . Fry occasionally in duck or beef fat, they taste amazing!!
Take a trip to your local grocery store and you’ll find a variety of products labeled “diet,” “light,” “low fat,” and “fat-free.” While these products are tempting to those wanting to shed excess body fat, they’re typically an unhealthy choice.
Research has shown that many low fat and diet items contain much more added sugar and salt than their regular-fat counterparts. It’s best to forgo these products and instead enjoy ghee daily, and nut butters. Low fat and diet foods are typically high in sugar and salt. Unaltered higher fat alternatives are often a healthier choice.
While focusing on consuming a nutrient-dense, well-rounded diet is the most essential component of health, supplements — when used correctly and in the right form — can be beneficial in many ways.
For many, especially those with health conditions like type 2 diabetes, as well as those who take common medications like statins, proton pump inhibitors, birth control, and antidiabetic medications, taking specific supplements can significantly affect their health. For example, supplementing with magnesium and B vitamins has been shown to benefit those with type 2 diabetes by enhancing blood sugar and reducing heart disease risk factors and diabetes-related complications.
Those on restrictive diets, people with genetic mutations like methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), people over the age of 50, and pregnant or breastfeeding women are other examples of populations that may benefit from taking specific supplements.
While reducing calorie intake can indeed boost weight loss, cutting calories too low can lead to metabolic adaptations and long-term health consequences. Going on a very low calorie diet leads to a reduction in metabolic rate, increased feelings of hunger, and alterations in fullness hormones. This makes long-term weight maintenance difficult. This is why studies have shown that low calorie dieters rarely succeed in keeping excess weight off in the long term.
Obesity is associated with many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, certain cancers, and even early death. Still, reducing your disease risk does not mean you have to be skinny. What’s most important is consuming a nutritious diet and maintaining an active lifestyle, as these behaviors often improve your body weight and body fat percentage.
Many people are told to pop calcium supplements to keep their skeletal system healthy. However, current research has shown that supplementing with calcium may do more harm than good. For example, some studies have linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart disease. Additionally, research shows that they don’t reduce the risk of fracture or osteoporosis.
If you’re concerned about your calcium intake, it’s best to focus on dietary sources of calcium like full fat salmon, sardines, green leafy vegetables, and seeds..especially sesame seeds.
Millie – Although medical professionals commonly prescribe calcium supplements, current research shows that these supplements may do more harm than good. Taking more calcium causes you to leach it from the bones.
Many people struggle with getting adequate dietary fiber, which is why fiber supplements are so popular. But dry fiber can harm the colon. High fiber whole foods like vegetables and fruit contain nutrients and plant compounds that work synergistically to promote your health, and they can’t be replaced by fiber supplements.
Certain juices and smoothies are highly nutritious. For example, a nutrient-dense smoothie or freshly made juice composed primarily of non-starchy vegetables can be a great way to increase your vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake.
Yet, it’s important to know that most juices and smoothies sold at stores are loaded with sugar and calories. When consumed in excess, they can promote weight gain and other health issues like tooth decay and blood sugar dysregulation
Probiotics are amongst the most popular dietary supplements on the market. However, practitioners generally overprescribed them, and research has demonstrated that some people may not benefit from probiotics like others do.
Not only are some people’s digestive systems resistant to probiotic colonization, but introducing probiotics through supplements may lead to negative changes in their gut bacteria.
Plus, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine related to probiotic use can lead to bloating, gas, and other adverse side effects.
Additionally, some studies show that probiotic treatment following a course of antibiotics may delay the natural reconstitution of normal gut bacteria.
Millie- eating healthy foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, help your gut grow and maintain health gut flora.
There’s no need to obsess over your calorie intake and track every morsel of food that passes your lips to lose weight.
Although food tracking can be a useful tool when trying to lose excess body fat, it’s not right for everyone.
What’s more, being overly preoccupied with food by tracking calories has been associated with an increased risk of disordered eating tendencies. Although tracking calories may help some people lose weight, it’s not necessary for everyone and may lead to disordered eating tendencies.
Cholesterol-rich foods have gotten a bad rap thanks to misconceptions about how dietary cholesterol affects heart health.
While some people are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others, overall, nutrient-dense, cholesterol-rich foods can be included in a healthy diet. In fact, including cholesterol-rich, nutritious foods like eggs in your diet boosts health by enhancing feelings of fullness and providing important nutrients that other foods lack.
Just as fat has been blamed for promoting weight gain and heart disease, carbs have been shunned by many people over fears that consuming this macronutrient will cause obesity, diabetes, and other adverse health effects. In reality, eating a moderate amount of nutritious carbs that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals like starchy root vegetables, ancient grains, and legumes will likely benefit your health — not harm it.
For example, dietary patterns that contain a balanced mix of high fiber carbs mainly from produce, healthy fats, and proteins, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been associated with a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease.
Millie- Fruits and vegetables are calorically 95% carbs. BUT, they are not empty carbs. It’s the processed carbs that are bad for you, cookies, pasta, cakes, sugars.
The bottom line – The nutrition world is rife with misinformation, leading to public confusion, mistrust of health professionals, and poor dietary choices.
This, coupled with the fact that nutrition science is constantly changing, makes it no wonder that most people have a warped view of what constitutes a healthy diet.
Although these nutrition myths are likely here to stay, educating yourself by separating fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition can help you feel more empowered to develop a nutritious and sustainable dietary pattern that works for your individual needs.
FYI_ Coffee has the same properties, is high in antioxidants and is a great antidepressant!!
Tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death in general, with each additional cup of green tea a day associated with a 4-percent lower mortality risk. So, perhaps “drinking several cups of tea daily can keep the doctor away,” as well as the mortician—but what about cancer?
As I discuss in my video Can Green Tea Help Prevent Cancer, there is “growing evidence from laboratory, epidemiologic [population], and human intervention studies that tea can exert beneficial disease-preventive effects” and, further, may actually “slow cancer progression.” Let’s review some of that evidence.
Not only do those who drink a lot of tea appear to live longer than those who drink less, as you can see at 0:49 in my video, drinking lots of tea may also delay the onset of cancer. At 0:56 in my video, you can see a table titled “Average age at cancer onset and daily green tea consumption.” The green tea intake is measured in Japanese tea cups, which only contain a half a cup, so the highest category in the table is actually greater than or equal to five full cups of tea, not ten as it appears in the table. Women who did get cancer appeared to get it seven years later if they had been drinking lots of tea compared to those who had consumed less. Men, however, had a three-year delay in cancer onset if they had consumed more than five full cups of green tea daily, the difference potentially “due to higher tobacco consumption by males.”
Green tea may be able to interfere with each of the stages of cancer formation: the initiation of the first cancer cell, promotion into a tumor, and then subsequent progression and spread, as you can see at 1:24 in my video. Cancer is often initiated when a free radical oxidizes our DNA, causing a mutation, but, as you can see at 1:44 in my video, we can get a nice “spike of antioxidant power” of our bloodstream within 40 minutes of drinking green tea. “This increase may, in turn, lower oxidative damage to DNA and so decrease risk of cancer.”
Furthermore, in terms of genoprotective effects—that is, protecting our genes—pre-existing oxidation-induced DNA damage was lower after drinking green tea, suggesting consumption can boost DNA repair as well. We didn’t know for certain, however…until now.
There is a DNA-repair enzyme in our body called OGG1. As you can see at 2:15 in my video, within one hour of drinking a single cup of green tea, we can boost OGG1’s activity, and after a week of tea drinking, we can boost it even higher. So, “regular intake of green tea has additional benefits in the prevention and/or repair of DNA damage.” In fact, tea is so DNA-protective it can be used for sperm storage for fresh samples until they can be properly refrigerated.
What’s more, tea is so anti-inflammatory it can be used for pain control as a mouthwash after wisdom tooth surgery, as you can see at 2:41 in my video. In terms of controlling cancer growth, at a dose of green tea compounds that would make it into our organs after drinking six cups of tea, it can cause cancer cells to commit suicide—apoptosis (programmed cell death)—while leaving normal cells alone. There are a number of chemotherapy agents that can kill cancer through brute force, but that can make normal cells vulnerable, too. So, “[g]reen tea appears to be potentially an ideal agent for [cancer] prevention”: little or no adverse side-effects, efficacious for multiple cancers at achievable dose levels, and able to be taken orally. We have a sense of how it works—how it stops cancer cells from growing and causing them to kill off themselves—and it’s cheap and has a history of safe, acceptable use. But, all of this was based on in-vitro studies in a test tube. “It needs to be evaluated in human trials,” concluded the researchers. Indeed, what happens when we give green tea to people with cancer? Does it help?
Tea consumption may reduce the risk of getting oral cancer. Not only may the consumption of tea boost the antioxidant power of our bloodstream within minutes and decrease the amount of free-radical DNA damage throughout our systems over time, but it can also increase the antioxidant power of our saliva and decrease the DNA damage within the inner cheek cells of smokers, though not as much as stopping smoking all together. You can see several graphs and tables showing these findings in the first 35 seconds of my video Can Green Tea Help Treat Cancer?.
Might this help precancerous oral lesions from turning into cancerous oral lesions? More than 100,000 people develop oral cancer annually worldwide, with a five-year overall survival rate of less than the flip of a coin. Oral cancer frequently arises from precancerous lesions in the mouth, each having a few percent chance of turning cancerous every year. Can green tea help?
Fifty-nine patients with precancerous oral lesions were randomized into either a tea group, in which capsules of powdered tea extract were given and their lesions were painted with green tea powder, or a control group, who essentially got sugar pills and their lesions painted with nothing but glycerin. As you can see at 1:23 in my video, within six months, lesions in 11 out of the 29 in the tea group shrunk, compared to only 3 of 30 in the placebo group. “The results indicate that tea treatment can improve the clinical manifestations of the oral lesions.”
The most important question, though, is whether the tea treatment prevented the lesions from turning cancerous. Because the trial only lasted a few months, the researchers couldn’t tell. When they scraped some cells off of the lesions, however, there was a significant drop in DNA-damaged cells within three months in the treatment groups, suggesting that things were going in the right direction, as you can see at 1:46 in my video. Ideally, we’d have a longer study to see if they ended up with less cancer and one that just used swallowed tea components, since most people don’t finger-paint with tea in their mouths. And, we got just that.
As you can see at 2:15 in my video, there were the same extraordinary clinical results with some precancerous lesions shrinking away. What’s more, the study lasted long enough to see if fewer people actually got cancer. The answer? There was just as much new cancer in the green tea group as the placebo group. So, the tea treatment resulted in a higher response rate, as the lesions looked better, but there was no improvement in cancer-free survival.
These studies were done on mostly smokers and former smokers. What about lung cancer? As you can see at 2:46 in my video, population studies suggest tea may be protective, but let’s put it to the test. Seventeen patients with advanced lung cancer were given up to the equivalent of 30 cups of green tea a day, but “[n]o objective responses were seen.” In a study of 49 cancer patients, 21 of whom had lung cancer, the subjects received between 4 and 25 cups worth of green tea compounds a day. Once again, no benefits were found. The only benefit green tea may be able to offer lung cancer patients is to help lessen the burns from the radiation treatments when applied on the skin. Indeed, green tea compresses may be able to shorten the duration of the burns, as you can see at 3:21 in my video.
The protective effects of green tea applied topically were also seen in precancerous cervical lesions, where the twice-a-day direct application of a green tea ointment showed a beneficial response in nearly three-quarters of the patients, compared to only about 10 percent in the untreated control group, which is consistent with the benefits of green tea compounds on cervical cancer cells in a petri dish. When women were given green tea extract pills to take, however, they didn’t seem to help.
I talked about the potential benefit of green tea wraps for skin cancer in Treating Gorlin Syndrome with Green Tea, but is there any other cancer where green tea can come into direct contact? Yes. Colon cancer, which grows from the inner surface of the colon that comes into contact with food and drink. As you can see at 4:13 in my video, in the colon, tea compounds are fermented by our good gut bacteria into compounds like 3,4DHPA, which appears to wipe out colon cancer cells, while leaving normal colon cells relatively intact in vitro. So one hundred thirty-six patients with a history of polyps were randomized to get green tea extract pills or not. Now, this study was done in Japan, where drinking green tea is commonplace, so, effectively, this was comparing those who drank three cups of green tea a day to subjects who drank four daily cups. A year later on colonoscopy, the added-green tea group had only half the polyp recurrence and the polyps that did grow were 25 percent smaller. With such exciting findings, why hasn’t a larger follow-up study been done? Perhaps due to the difficulty “in raising funds” for the study, “because green tea is a beverage but not a pharmaceutical.”
There is good news. Thanks to a major cancer charity in Germany, researchers are currently recruiting for the largest green tea cancer trial to date, in which more than 2,000 patients will be randomized. I look forward to presenting the results to you when they come in.
The novel coronavirus strain COVID-19 has been spreading quickly and infecting people so rapidly, that it is now formally a world-wide pandemic. Like other virus strains, it causes ailments ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndrome.
The goal shared by billions of people across the globe is to limit the infections. At the societal level, reducing physical interaction in normally busy hubs reduces transmission between people. Additionally, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself – by boosting your immunity.
The immune system
The immune system is the body’s defense complex, protecting against disease. It is comprised of a multi-level biological infrastructure designed to detect a broad range of pathogens, such as viruses, distinguishing them from the body’s healthy tissue. Once identified, the immune system works to neutralize these pathogens.
Building and sustaining a strong immune system is an ongoing endeavor; there is no silver bullet. Here are suggestions for boosting your immunity.
Foods rich in nutrients
Unsurprisingly, the same foods that will help you lose weight, feel healthy, and look great, are the ones that will help your body against toxic pathogens.
There is no single food or diet that has been shown to cure or prevent disease, but malnutrition can impair your ability to fight off illness and infection. By malnutrition, we are referring to a lack of vitamins, minerals, and micro-nutrients.
The best thing you can do to boost your immune system is to regularly consume copious amounts of produce. Fruits and vegetables contain hundreds of phytochemicals that are extremely beneficial in disease prevention.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of carotenoids that boost the activity of the white blood cells called lymphocytes. If you can’t find fresh produce, opt for frozen, and even canned. In any case, make dark leafy greens a priority.
A word about garlic. As any food lover can test, garlic is tasty and healthy. Additionally, it possesses antimicrobial properties. Studies have shown that garlic can inhibit some flu viruses. however, there is no evidence right now that garlic can help prevent the coronavirus.
Food with zinc
Zinc is a mineral with anti-viral properties. A laboratory study demonstrated its ability to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses such as COVID-19 in cells.
Furthermore, zinc can ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections including the common cold.
The recommended daily intake of zinc is 11mg for men, and 8mg for women (12mg if pregnant).
Food sources of zinc include:
- Meat – beef, pork (30-40% of the daily value (DV)
- Chicken (20% DV)
- Shellfish – oysters (200% DV) , crab (60%), mussels and shrimp (10-15%)
- Eggs (5% per egg)
- Milk (9% per cup) and cheese
- Potatoes (9% for a large potato)
- Cashews (15% per 1-ounce serving)
- Seeds – hemp (30%), pumpkin, and sesame seeds
- Legumes (12% )
- Avocado (12% per medium avocado)
What about supplements?
Supplements are being promoted like crazy by marketers hoping to make a quick buck from panicked consumers. When people are afraid, they they can easily be convinced that supplements prevent or treat disease.
When it comes to coronavirus (COVID-19) and other flu-like diseases, there is no proof that supplements actually work.
That being said, some supplement may have a limited benefit:
- Vitamin C
- Zinc lozenges (see above)
- Vitamin D
- Elderberry extract
- Garlic supplements
Vitamin C protects the immune system and helps to fight off infections. Vitamin C is most bioavailable when consumed from whole foods such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi, etc.
Zinc lozenges can reduce the severity and duration of colds caused by viruses. This means that even if you have contracted a virus such as COVID-19, there can be a mitigating effect on the respiratory disease that develops in the upper airway.
Vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of a respiratory infection from flu-like viruses in people who start out deficient. There is no study pertaining to coronavirus, but if you are low on vitamin D levels despite eating foods with vitamin D, consider supplementing.
Hydrate with water
Drinking water throughout the day may help boost your immunity. Staying hydrated helps the body eliminate toxins naturally through urination. It helps the cells take in nutrients and remove waste.
Avoid alcohol and smoking
Consumption of alcohol reduces the bioavailability of certain nutrients. Alcohol disrupts immune pathways thus impairing the body’s ability to defend against infection.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to adverse immune-related health effects such as increased susceptibility to pneumonia and acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS).
Smoking slowly kills your lungs. Need we add more?
Regular exercise, even mild, has been shown to boost the immune system. You don’t need to do much more than take a 30-minute walk. A study conducted on elderly people who regularly exercised found that they had immune systems comparable to people decades younger than them
Sleep deprivation has a detrimental effect on the immune system. Our modern lifestyle has led to a decrease in quality sleep time, and it has been taking its toll on society. The exact mechanisms are an area of active investigation.
If you can add just one extra hour of sleep a night, your body will be better prepared to handle whatever is thrown at it the next day.
Pro tip: leave your phone and tablet devices out of the bedroom.
Find ways to de-stress
Just like sleep-deprivation, stress has become a hallmark of modern living. Stress compromises the effectiveness of the immune system. The negative emotional response to perceived stress leads to hormonal and other changes that weaken immune function.
While easier said than done, there are several things you can do to reduce stress. Some were mentioned above. Getting a good night’s sleep is extremely beneficial. So is exercise. Walking counts. If you can get out to a park or a place with green and trees, even better.
Hygiene is critical
We are all familiar with standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection:
- regularly wash your hands. Do this with intention, spending at least 30 seconds fully lathering your digits and all the way up to your wrists.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.
- Clean off dirty surfaces.
Social distancing and the need for human connections
If you don’t want to get infected, stay awy from infected people. This is hard to do when the incubation time of the coronavirus is up to 2 weeks. This means people don’t know they are carrying the virus, they are out in public, and infecting others.
This is why so many events have been canceled, why schools are closing, and why many people have started working from home.
While social distancing makes sense, it sure is great that we have digital social networks that help us feel close. Make sure to stay connected with friends, family, and loved ones. We humans are social animals.
Boosting immunity with the Fooducate app
In your Fooducate app settings, turn the “Boost my immune system” option on. Foods that you look up will include information about their contribution to improving immunity.
- Carr, et al – Vitamin C and Immune Function. – Nutrients, 2013
- Thomas, et al – Vitamin C and immunity: an assessment of the evidence. – Clin Exp Immunol. 1978
- Sharma, et al – Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview – Indian J Clin Biochem., 2013
- Velthuis, et al – Zn(2+) inhibits coronavirus and arterivirus RNA polymerase activity in vitro and zinc ionophores block the replication of these viruses in cell culture. – PLoS Pathog. 2010
- Aranow – Vitamin D and the immune system. – J Investig Med. 2011
- Wintergerst, et al – Immune-Enhancing Role of Vitamin C and Zinc and Effect on Clinical Conditions – Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2006
- Bnaventura, et a – Zinc and its role in immunity and inflammation – Autoimmunity Reviews, 2015
- Ried – Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Individuals, Regulates Serum Cholesterol, and Stimulates Immunity: An Updated Meta-analysis and Review – The Journal of Nutrition, 2016
- Tsai , et al – Antiviral properties of garlic: in vitro effects on influenza B, herpes simplex and coxsackie viruses – Planta Med 1985
- Sarkar, et al – Alcohol and the Immune System – Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR) , 2015
- Fernanded et al – Exercise, immunity, and aging – Aging Clinical and Experimental Research – Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2014
- Bollinger, et al – Sleep, Immunity, and Circadian Clocks: A Mechanistic Model – Gerontology, 2010
- Cohen – Psychological Stress, Immunity, and Upper Respiratory Infections – Current Directions in Psychological Science – 1996
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Often, the success of a great dish comes down to heat. Gorgeously seared steak, perfect stir-fry, or properly al dente pasta all rely on a big flame and high heat. But here’s a secret: Sometimes, your cooking secret weapon is a cold pot or pan.
While you’d never lay an expensive porterhouse in a chilly pan and then turn on the flame (the steak would eventually cook through, but it’d turn out gray and pallid, not golden-brown and caramelized), there are a few times when starting the cooking process with a cold pan is a must. Beginning with a cold pan allows you to better control the temperature, and lets you slowly build layers of flavor, rather than shocking your ingredients. These are the cooking techniques that call for cold pans.
Perfect BLTs start with crispy bacon. Crispy bacon starts with a cold pan. Photo: Dawn Perry
Rendering Bacon Fat
Add a raw piece of bacon to a hot pan, and it’ll cook up in no time flat—without rendering any of the fat, unfortunately. That’s fine if you’re the type who likes gumming on bacon fat, but, ’round here, we like our cured pork belly crispy. The way to shatteringly crisp bacon is fat in the pan, not on the strip. Plus, if you take things low and slow when cooking bacon, you’ll be rewarded with a panful of rendered bacon fat for later use—not a bad flavor tool to have in your arsenal.
Making Garlic Confit
Garlic confit is made by slowly heating oil with whole cloves of garlic, then letting the mixture cool down together. The result is two-fold: a garlicky flavored oil and tender cloves of garlic perfect for spreading on toast or adding to stir-fries and sauces. The key to developing this flavor is to let the garlic heat up with the oil—so start cold and let it all come together at once. You also don’t want to get the oil to its smoking point; a cold pan is extra insurance against that.
Seared Duck Breast with Mustard Greens, Turnips, and Radishes. Photo: Christopher Testani.
Cooking Skin-On Duck or Chicken
If you add a skin-on duck breast or chicken thigh to a screaming hot pan, the skin will contract quickly, tightening up and shrinking. This is not good. “You don’t want the skin to seize up before the fat has rendered,” explains Claire Saffitz, BA‘s associate food editor. Seized-up skin means chewy, not crispy—and you know we’re all about the crispy skin. This is especially important for duck breast, which has a very thick layer of fat. Start cold, and take it easy: This is no place to crank the heat.
Toasting Seeds and Spices
Tiny toppers like sesame seeds and spices like cumin or fennel taste better toasted—this recipe for Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs is proof. Unfortunately, they also cook quickly. If you add them to a pan that’s already hot, they’ll burn and blacken before toasting from the inside out. Another tip: Remove the seeds or spices from the pan as soon as they’re done; if you leave them in the now-hot pan, they will overcook.
The BA test kitchen staff suggests starting boiled eggs in cold water. If you drop a cold, straight-from-the-fridge egg into a pot of boiling water, the extreme temperature change will likely cause the shell to crack, causing the egg white to bubble out of the fissure. This is not the biggest deal in the world, sure, but when presentation matters, you’ll want to take a little extra care.
It’s called brown butter, not blackened butter. Photo: Gentl & Hyers
If you’ve ever made brown butter, you know that it takes just seconds to go from that golden, nutty color to black and burned. (If you haven’t made brown butter, may we suggest cooking these Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter immediately?) Don’t make the process any harder on yourself by shocking the butter in a ripping hot pan. The proper technique is to melt the butter slowly and patiently wait, swirling the pan periodically, as the milk solids toast and become the color of hazelnuts (psst—that’s where the French term for brown butter, beurre noisette, comes from).