By: Jaime C. Cua, M. S.Nutritional Biochemist1. Avoid deep fried food.Deep fried food must be completely avoided if optimum health is what you are after, or if you are attempting to reverse any degenerative diseases. Deep frying destroys essential fatty acids in food by twisting their molecules from a natural “cis”-shape (bent) to an unnatural “trans”- shape (straight). Extreme heat also destroys fatty acids by cross-linking and breaking them into several potentially-toxic compounds. Trans-molecules do not fit perfectly into biological systems. This results in impaired enzyme activities and weak cellular structures. When molecular architecture of our body is changed by introducing molecules with wrong shape and properties, all vital functions of different organ systems will be adversely affected, leading to modern degenerative diseases. Some studies show that many toxic products produced during deep-frying are even more toxic than trans-fatty acids. When oil is overheated, several chemically-altered molecules such as cross-linked fatty acid chains and varied molecular fragments are produced. Several oxidation products such as epoxides and peroxides are also produced which damage all cellular structures.If you insist in frying, it is helpful to know that some oils are damage less than others. Coconut and palm oils are the preferred cooking oil because they contains mostly saturated fatty acids which are chemically-inert. Saturated fatty acids have strong bonds along their molecular chain and therefore can withstand heat relatively well. Monounsaturated oils (olive oil, peanut and sesame oil) are acceptable for low temperature frying such as pan frying and stir-frying as long as they are not allowed to smoke. Polyunsaturated oils (corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil and safflower) are the least stable and should not be used for frying at all.To lessen the damage to cooking oil, more care is required during frying. In traditional Chinese cooking, water is placed in the frying pan first, not oil. Water keeps the temperature down to non-destructive temperature (100 C). In European gourmet cooking, vegetable is placed in the frying pan before oil is added. Moisture content in vegetables keeps the temperature down. Addition of garlic and onions to cooking oil during stir-frying also protects against oxidative changes due to their high sulfur content. The most destructive way of frying is to pour oil into an empty frying pan, and let it sizzle and smoke before food is added. Smoke is an indication that fatty acids are completely destroyed. 2. Avoid food cooked or prepared with refined polyunsaturated vegetable oil.Most vegetable oils available in the supermarkets, whether from corn, soybean, canola, peanut, sunflower, and safflower, are fully refined with most of the nutrients removed. These oils do not taste like the seed from which they were pressed, and also do not have the color and aroma characteristics of their seed source. Such oils are the equivalent of ‘white sugar’ and can therefore be called ‘white oils’.Refined vegetable oils have lost several essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, lecithin, phytosterols and fiber. Moreover, it contains several toxic molecules resulting from the breakdown and alteration of fatty acid molecules during processing.To fill our requirement for oils and essential fatty acids, we must rely on fresh nuts and seeds. The vitamin E and other natural antioxidants present in seeds and nuts protect the essential oils against rancidity caused by light and oxygen. It also supplies us with protective antioxidants required for optimum health. Hydrogenation is food industry’s way of changing natural oils to semi-liquid or solid fats with specific “mouth feels” and longer shelf life. It provides an inexpensive spreadable product for consumers and cheap raw material for food processors. Partially-hydrogenation produces margarines and shortenings which contribute the bulk of the trans fatty acids found in the human diet. They are found in bakery products, margarine in cooked dishes, mayonnaise in sandwiches and salads.To lessen the intake of hydrogenated fats, one must be prudent in choosing the right food.Choose regular bread instead of croissant.Choose cream cheese instead of mayonnaise.Choose butter instead of margarine.Choose dry soda crackers instead of oil-rich pastries.Choose full cream milk instead of filled milk.3. Avoid commercial food products containing seeds, beans and nuts. Essential oils in seeds, beans and nuts are protected by nature through its tough outer coat. These oils spoil rapidly when protective coats are broken, pressed or ground during food preparation. Since light, heat and oxygen are the main causes of oil spoilage or rancidity, utmost care must be undertaken during processing and storage. However, most manufacturers, distributors and retailers do not take extra precautionary measures to assure that products reach their consumers in the best state possible. The degree of rancidity cannot be ascertained since taste and smell cannot be relied upon due to added flavors and aroma.If optimum health is what you desire, it is safer to stay away from commercial products which contain nuts, seeds and beans. Prefer to eat freshly boiled peanut instead of roasted dried ones. Prefer to drink fresh soybean milk instead of artificially-flavored ones in supermarket. Prefer to eat assorted bean soup dessert instead of Chinese hopia or mooncake.4. Avoid highly-refined, chemically-loaded and severely devitalized food.Most supermarket products are manufactured with more emphasis on profit and convenience rather than on its value on health. They are chemically-loaded with artificial additives and severely-depleted in life-giving nutrients. It is what manufacturers want … a food that doesn’t spoil.If you are serious about your health, it is best to eat food that spoils easily, but eat them before they do. Choose natural fruit juices instead of packed juice drinks.Choose fresh fruits in season instead of canned fruit slices.Choose quick-cooking oatmeal instead of crunchy breakfast cereals.Choose fresh fish instead of dried salted ones.Choose tomato ketchup instead of banana ketchup.Choose honey or brown sugar instead of artificial sweetener.It is always healthier to eat the freshest, most natural and wholesome food available. For food that must be cooked before serving, it is best to prepare dishes using the least destructive method such as boiling or steaming. Baking and roasting are also permissible if they are done with care. Some suggested dishes that are known for their naturalness and wholesomeness include Chinese hot pot and dimsum (siopao, siomai, congee and mami), native Filipino dishes (adobo, ginataan, sinigang, kilawin ,tinola, lechon), European gourmet dishes (lightly-cooked steak, mashed potato, steamed vegetables).5. Avoid sugar-loaded food.When too much sweets and refined carbohydrates are ingested, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream too fast. Pancreas ‘kick in’ by secreting insulin which removes excess glucose with amazing efficiency. When blood glucose falls too low, adrenal glands ‘kick in’ by secreting stress hormones which mobilize glucose from our liver and muscles to raise blood sugar back to normal. With long-term intake of sweets, a series of biochemical ‘seesaw’ finally exhaust the pancreas and adrenal glands, resulting in severe fluctuation in blood sugar. This may gradually lead to classical diabetic condition characterized by glucose spill in urine after a normal meal and psychosomatic symptoms (tremor, lethargy, fainting spell, etc.) due to low blood sugar after an overnight fast. Glucose is chemically similar to ascorbic acid and therefore can compete with each other within the biological system. When intake of glucose is constantly high, it can overwhelm the system by negating the beneficial actions of ascorbic acid in strengthening the connective tissues and immune systems. The consequence is vast array of chronic degenerative diseases associated with ascorbic acid deficiency. To prevent severe blood sugar fluctuations, it is advisable to avoid sugar-loaded food and beverages. Unrefined sweetener such as honey and brown sugar may be added in moderate amount to favorite beverages. For mild diabetics, natural sweetness of fruits and lightly-sweetened food should be taken only after a full meal with enough protein and fat to prevent dramatic rise in blood sugar.6. Avoid meal with too much emphasis on either carbohydrate, protein or fat.Each meal should contain certain acceptable amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Ideally, 50% of each meal should consist of complex carbohydrate (cereals, rootcrops, pasta, certain fruits and vegetables), 30% consists of high biological protein (poultry and meat, soybeans and mixed pulses, fishes and seafoods, organ meat), and 20% consists of fibrous fruits and vegetables.Inadequate intake of calories and protein could undermine one’s recovery from illness. The body loses its ability to sustain energy-dependent functions (digestion, respiratory, detoxification, neuroregulatory) if carbohydrate and fat are insufficient to meet the daily caloric needs of the body. The body also loses its ability to maintain life-sustaining levels of enzymes, hormones, transport proteins and antibodies if protein is insufficient to meet the increased requirement of the body for growth, repair and development. Furthermore, inadequate intake of antioxidant-rich and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables can impair our regulatory and detoxification processes. This can lead to metabolic dysfunctions associated with most degenerative diseases.Suggested menu that has good ratio of three macronutrients includes:Lightly-sweetened oatmeal mixed with full cream milk and beaten egg as main dish for breakfast with liberal servings of assorted fresh fruits;A medium-sized steak, mashed potato, liberal servings of vegetables for lunch;A bowl of steamed rice topped with braised meat slices and green leafy vegetables for supper.