How cooking alters food?

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Cooking refers to the process of preparing food for human consumption with or without the help of heat.  Various cooking techniques like grilling, baking, frying, boiling etc are some of the common method of cooking food. Type of cooking depends upon the skill of the person engaged in cooking activity. Cooking is done in homes by ordinary people and in hotels and restaurants there are well trained professional chefs for cooking.

Food compositions

Important function of cooking is to make the raw food eatable by killing the bacteria present in it with the help of high temperature produced during cooking. There are some special cooking methods in which some acids and lemon juice are used for cooking instead of heat produced by the flames.  Ceviche is one such method in practice in South America in which fishes are cooked with the help of some acids and lemon juice. Preparation of food with the help of heat is believed to have started in this universe around 2 million years ago though the archeological evidences show a history of one million years only. Expansion of trade and commerce, the intermingling of cultures, invention of pottery etc have lead to new techniques in cooking and has enriched the flavor of the dish prepared.

A healthy diet invariantly contains enough carbohydrates as well as protein.  Protein is the main source of energy and carbohydrates is also a source of energy in addition to providing important minerals and vitamins. Now let us examine what happens to these ingredients during the process of cooking.

Protein

Protein is present everywhere in human body and it makes the chemical reactions responsible for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Protein is abundantly available in beans, seeds, nuts, legumes, dairy food and meat.   When food which contains protein is heated they coagulate. At around 160-185° F the protein shrinks as the moisture is lost. When meat is heated slowly the connective tissues start dissolving. Heat reduces the overall content of proteins slowly though it does not destroy protein.

Carbohydrates

Grains, fiber and sugar etc are rich in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates contain a certain amount of sugar molecules. Baked food, white bread and white pasta contain abundant quantity of carbohydrates. Sugars in carbohydrate get carmelized when cooked.  Golden brown color on top of bread is an example of the carmelization.  When starch in carbohydrate begins to swell absorbing water, it is known as gelatinization. This process is used to make bread, sauces and other baked products.  When carbohydrates like flour is added to liquids, the process of gelatinization makes them very tasty gravy and thick sauces.

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