The key to making culinary genomics come alive is learning how to prepare these powerful Master Ingredients to unlock their greatest food-gene potential.
Bioactives in some of these flavorful tools are dormant and need to be awakened through chopping, tossing, and mixing. Other cooking techniques actually destroy bioactives, reducing the ingredients’ overall effectiveness. This is particularly true for our Master Ingredients. Let’s look at some basics for you and then how to translate them.
Keep It (Mostly) Raw Keep your Master Ingredients in their uncooked form as much as possible. Applying heat and acid can denature the bioactives you’re after, rendering them unable to signal your genes. Tomatoes are the exception as cooking unlocks their lycopene content, a powerful anti-inflammatory signal. Some research does suggest that “light steaming” can preserve some capabilities so if you want some of your ingredients cooked, then cook them.. The key is to create an eating strategy that mixes up cooked and raw.
Chop and Chew Cruciferous Greens Sulforaphane is a powerful bioactive derived from a compound called glycosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables. Because it does not exist naturally as a bioactive, sulforaphane needs to be created or manufactured by chopping or chewing raw crucifers, which releases an enzyme that starts a chemical conversion. Chopping and then cooking broccoli, for example, destroys both the converting enzyme, myrosinase, and its desired end product, sulforaphane.
Use Acids Sparingly In the same way that heat can denature enzymes and render bioactives useless, acids can have a similar effect. Adding vinegar or citrus to Master Ingredients can diminish the potency of the bioactives and weaken the food-gene relationship. You can use acids such as vinegars and citrus zest and juice but toss just before eating. Toss your salads at the last minute or serve the dressing on the side to prevent acid from coming into contact with your ingredients. This is actually sound culinary practice, too, as any oils in the dressing will also begin to break down the cell walls of greens and vegetables, making them limp and unappetizing.
The Big Picture Remember, Master Ingredients are part of your kitchen, but not your whole kitchen. When I have taught chefs and clinicians about bioactives, some have become obsessed with preserving the bioactives and start to worry about cooking. Everything in moderation! Culinary Genomics is a strategy for eating over a lifetime. You want to prepare food that is both cooked and raw. Cooked food provides valuable nutrients above and beyond bioactives. Raw food will deliver bioactives and nutrients. To successfully convene a relationship with your genes, mix up your Master Ingredients.