5 REASONS STEAMED FOODS ARE THE HEALTHIEST
The truth is that steamed foods are alien to the African or Nigerian culture. I sat down to think about at least ten foods that Nigerians steam, but I could only come up with Moinmoin and Ekuru and some veggies (and that’d be for babies though). What would Nigerians want to steam actually? Pounded yam or Jollof beans? Fried Rice?
Boiling, grilling, frying, roasting, baking pounding and so on are our popular methods of cooking and while they are not so bad in themselves, I am here to introduce and reintroduce the best and healthiest method of cooking-steaming!
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO STEAM FOODS?
Steaming is a cooking technique where hot steam is utilized to conduct heat into the food and the steam would be the one to cook the food to a finish. This means that the food being cooked does not come into contact with water at all.
WHAT DO I NEED FOR STEAMED FOODS?
There are various varieties of steamers in the market that you can purchase to help with your steamed foods. Some are cheap and some are costly. You go to the market and cut your coat according to the fabric available for you!
WHAT IS A STEAMER?
What is this steamer? A steamer is a machine that has the upper and the lower parts. The lower part contains water and the upper part contains foods to be steamed. What it does is heat up water in the bowl below to a boil, the steam rises through holes in the food basket at the top, and the container of ingredients above fills with steam, cooking the food.
HOW TO STEAM FOODS WITHOUT A STEAMER
However, we also have local steaming methods for those who cannot afford a steamer.
1. Bamboos, leaves and sacks: This is the commonest method that I have seen in Nigeria especially amongst Moinmoin sellers. Their pots would have little water in it, they’d arrange some sticks into the pot, place some leaves, some more sticks, arrange the moinmoin wraps, cover in with more leaves and sacks so the steam from the little water below can produce steam that’d cook through the beans paste without the water seeping in.
2. Foils and Pot: For this, you’d place a small amount of water at the bottom of a pot. Roll aluminum foil into golf ball-sized balls. Place the foil balls in the bottom of the pot in a single layer, then place a heatproof plate on top of the balls of aluminum foil, making sure the heatproof plate is level. Add your ingredients directly to the heatproof plate and allow them to steam. Alternatively, you can place a metal colander or metal strainer on top of the foil balls, then place the food in the colander or strainer and steam the ingredients.
3. Oven steaming: Add a few tablespoons of water to a baking pan, then add the wrapped food and place the roasting pan in the oven at medium heat for a few minutes at a time. Check the food periodically to ensure it is steaming, not burning. Add a few more tablespoons of water if you find it has evaporated completely. This can be an easy way to steam veggies, clams, fish, and even chicken.
WHY ARE STEAMED FOODS THE HEALTHIEST?
1. LOWERS CHOLESTEROL
One of the main enemies of our health that we should try as much as possible to cut out is oil. Unfortunately, we consume a lot of oil on a daily basis. This is detrimental to our health. If we steam foods however, there is no need for oil. Except in cases where you need to add a little to your moinmoin or rub in a little butter. This means there is immediately a lower fat content in your food, which is healthier. This invariably lowers cholesterol.
2. EASILY DIGESTIBLE
If you have had the privilege of feeding babies or caring for the sick, you’d see that this is usually their doctors’ recommended method of cooking. Steamed foods are easily digestible! The thing is, steaming softens the fibers of the food, making them more easily digestible, so your body can absorb all that nutritional goodness more easily.
3. RETAINS IMPORTANT VITAMINS AND MINERALS
When we fry our foods, we lose a lot of the nutrients to the oil. When we boil and strain the water out after being done, we lose a lot of vitamins and minerals in the water. However, steaming enhances vitamins such as vitamin B, thiamine, niacin, vitamin C, etc. Also, it retains minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorous and zinc.
4. REDUCES THE RISK OF CANCER
Eating lots of fried foods may increase the risk for obesity and type-2 diabetes. Such conditions can trigger inflammation and oxidative stress, further increasing the risk of cancer. But with steamed foods, this is less likely to happen.
Also, a compound known as acrylamide is made when we cook food at a high temperature. Not just boiling now. Even baking, roasting, toasting etc. These foods that are packed with acrylamide can damage the DNA while inducing death of cells or apoptosis.
But when you cook at a low temperature which steaming does, it doesn’t eliminate the glucosinolates in your foods. Glucosinolates are anti-cancer properties which your body needs to function properly and healthily.
5. PRESERVES THE FIBER, COLOUR, AND FLAVOUR OF FOODS
Foods, especially vegetables are kept as close to their natural raw state as possible, whilst still heating through thoroughly when you steam. The vegetables wouldn’t become overly crunchy or mashy when you steam. The steaming allows them to retain their original colors, tastes, juices, and freshness. If you want to add some aromatic flavor to the food, you can add herbs and spices to the water before you steam.
WHAT NIGERIAN FOODS CAN I STEAM?
Now to the big question: What Nigerian foods can I steam?
1. Vegetables of all kind
2. Moinmoin and Ekuru
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF STEAMING?
While I have explained the beauty and advantages of steaming foods above, let me let you in on some of the disadvantages you will come across while you use this method:
1. Steaming needs a lot of time to cook because it is a slow process.
2. Water can run out from the container, and it’s sometimes harder to refill.
3. Foods can get burnt easily because of low water or waterlessness.
4. It is difficult to brown foods during steaming. You have to get used to eating foods like chicken white etc.
5. It is easier to burn yourself because the container remains hot.
When it comes to our health, nutrition and diet, it is not only about using healthy ingredients, how to cook the ingredients to bring forth the most remarkable health benefits is even more important.
But with the explanations I have given above, you will agree with me that it is safe to say that steamed foods are healthier compared to their fried counterparts.
Make sure to try it now especially if you want to retain the minerals and vitamins in your food. You can start this by investing in a steamer. Once you have the steamer, you can steam whatever food you want.
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