Bulletproof Cooking Techniques: Make Your Food Do More For You
By: Dave Asprey
June 10, 2015
One of the primary goals of the Bulletproof Diet is to reduce as much inflammation from all sources as possible, to make you feel and look amazing all the time.
You already know it’s important to feed your body high quality foods, yet many people first going Bulletproof don’t realize this major step that differentiates it from other diets out there:
It’s not just about WHAT you eat – it’s about HOW you eat (and cook and prepare) it.
Bulletproof cooking principles are a critical piece of following the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap (download it here free). If you buy the right foods but then you char them to death, you aren’t doing anybody much good. 🙂
During my time as a raw vegan, it became clear that quite a lot of toxins are formed in food during certain cooking methods. Putting it all together, the way you process and cook your food (particularly proteins and fats) played a large role in your body’s level of inflammation. Upon researching modernist cuisine, the science revealed quite clearly which cooking methods reduce inflammation and which ones caused it.
This is why how you cook your food is just as important as what you eat on the Bulletproof Diet – an often overlooked, but critical, aspect of going Bulletproof!
- When smoking, frying, or grilling meat, two carcinogens are produced: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are formed when amino acids, sugars, and creatine react at high temperatures. PAHs are formed when the fat and juices from meat are burned in the flames of an open fire (such as when grilling) and then adhere to the surface of the meat.
- Two other sources of PAHs are car exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke. That’s right—grilling your meat can be as damaging to your body as smoking!
- When cooked above about 320°F, all meat produces some of these carcinogenic compounds. The amount depends on the temperature, how long the meat is cooked, the spices used, and the actual cooking method.
The rest of this post is a partial excerpt from The Bulletproof Diet book: pick up a copy if you haven’t already.
Problems With Cooking – And How To Get Around Them
Another problem with some cooking methods is that they damage proteins. Denatured proteins, which have lost their structure due to heat, aren’t toxic in and of themselves. But the more heated a protein is, the more denatured it gets and the less likely it is that your body will be able to take advantage of its signaling molecules. For example, research in mice has shown that only whey protein that hasn’t been denatured boosts glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant.
This is why I cook my proteins as little as possible.
The final problem with some cooking methods is that they oxidize fats. Fats are your friends, and it’s important to be nice to them! As you know, polyunsaturated fats are highly reactive to heat and other chemical stressors. When heated, these oils produce compounds called dicarbonyls that cause cell mutations and may contribute to cancer.
Before you start cooking your Bulletproof meals, you need to know which cooking methods will create these toxins in your food. To simplify things, here is a list of Bulletproof, Suspect, and Kryptonite cooking methods, organized in order from the safest to the most dangerous, so that you can avoid damaging your precious foods by cooking them the wrong way.
Bulletproof Cooking Methods: Cook Most of Your Food Like This
- The most Bulletproof way to prepare a fat and most protein is to not cook it – if it is safe and feasible not to. This might strike you as a little odd since lots of your calories on the Bulletproof Diet come from animal products, but grass-fed animal products are much less likely to contain parasites, pathogens, and toxins than those from grain-fed animals, so I think it’s safe to eat them on the rare side. Most cooking methods also oxidize delicate omega-3 and omega-6 fats, making them inflammatory.
- If you’re cooking meat, the best method is to place it in a small amount of water (to protect against oxidation and save the fats/juices) on low to medium heat (to avoid damaging proteins and destroying nutrients), tightly covered or for a short duration (to avoid oxidizing fats). Whatever method you’re using, make sure to use the least amount of heat you can to get it cooked and still make it taste good.
Steamed al dente
- Steaming is one of the safest cooking methods for meat and the best one for most vegetables. It saves most of the nutrients in your food from damage, makes vegetables and meats more palatable, and allows you to make a greater variety of dishes. However, steaming can easily be overdone. Steaming your vegetables into mush might make them easier to eat, but it also destroys many of their nutrients.
Baked at 320°f or Below
- Baking tends to be a riskier cooking method because of the high temperatures and available oxygen. Heating sugars (even the ones in plants) at high temperatures for a long time can produce AGEs and free radicals, while baking proteins can damage the protein bonds and cause the formation of toxic glutamate. Baking fats causes them to oxidize. All of these reactions cause inflammation, which decreases your mental and physical performance, but baking at temperatures below 320°F reduces the risks. Try adding turmeric, green tea, lemon, rosemary, sage, or oregano to protect the fats in your food from oxidation, too.
Boiled or poached
- Boiling water prevents oxidation of fats and protein because it displaces most of the oxygen. Boiled meat often isn’t particularly flavorful, but it’s fine for soups and shredded meat dishes. Boiled vegetables are healthy, and the extra water you drain away may remove unwanted antinutrients.
Suspect Cooking Methods: Should be used cautiously and not too frequently.
- Simmering helps prevent fats from oxidizing, but it does tend to fully denature proteins. Simmering for a short period of time is fine, but leaving a bunch of meat on the stove to simmer for hours is not a good idea. Simmering is also a good option for vegetables as long as you don’t overcook them.
- This method of cooking food in a water bath can make meat literally melt in your mouth. It’s a great cooking method, but it does have a few downsides. The main risk is that BPA and other compounds can leach into your food from the plastic bags you use. The best way to avoid this problem is to use a glass jar packed fully, instead. This is a fun way of cooking that produces amazing culinary results. See how you feel when cooking this way.
Lightly grilled (not Charred)
- This gives meat an unmistakable flavor and texture while keeping toxin formation to a minimum. The best way to grill your meat is so that the outside is just barely browned but the inside is still medium-rare to rare. This reduces the formation of toxins caused by charring meat while still giving your meat that wonderful grilled flavor and texture.
- Slow cooking is an easy and time-efficient way to prepare meals, but it does have a few downsides. Long, slow cooking breaks down collagen, making for soft, delicious meat dishes. However, it can also produce glutamate and overcook meat. Keep it tightly covered and use lots of antioxidant spices like turmeric and rosemary, and consider adding some ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder if you’re planning to simmer something for several hours.
- Broiling uses high heat from all sides to brown meat, which denatures the proteins. Broiling also oxidizes fats and causes glutamate to form outside the meat while destroying more nutrients in your food than other cooking methods. It’s okay to make a broiled dish every now and then, but it shouldn’t be your default cooking method.
Kryptonite Cooking Methods
- While barbecuing meat over an open flame or grill makes it taste great, it also causes a few serious problems. When the fats hit the coals, they form cancer- and inflammation-causing HCAs and PAHs. Most barbecue sauces have sugar and MSG, too. In most cases, you can get a similar taste and texture from low-temperature grilling, which produces fewer performance-robbing toxins, and by making your own Bulletproof barbecue sauce.
Burnt, Blackened, or Charred
- Burning, blackening, or charring meat oxidizes the fat molecules, making them inflammatory. Oxidized fats also disrupt hormonal signaling, which can make you less sensitive to insulin, and thus, fatter. These methods also denature proteins, which makes them irritating to your immune system and harder to digest. They also produce mutagenic and carcinogenic substances. Finally, these cooking methods produce glutamate, a neurotransmitter that in large amounts overexcites brain cells to death. All of these things decrease your mental and physical performance and may even make you age faster. Never eat blackened meat.
- Deep-frying is one of the worst ways to cook your food, as it bathes your food in oxidized fats, denatured proteins, and glycated sugars. The high temperatures used during deep-frying produce a number of toxic compounds that may increase your risk of cancer.
- Microwaved food is fully denatured, and one (albeit controversial) study showed that microwaves cause changes in HDL, LDL, and white blood cells. Microwave ovens also tend to create high amounts of electromagnetic fields in your kitchen. I don’t recommend using them.
- Now you know how to prepare your food so you can kick more ass and be more Bulletproof! Try out the recipes in the book that not only taste amazing but also optimize performance.
One of the reasons I’m so excited to open up Bulletproof Coffee later this summer, our first ever coffee shop and café, is so we can finally give people an easy, on-the-go food choice that is as carefully cooked and beneficial to your body as it is delicious!