If boiling an egg is the closest you get to gourmet cooking, congrats: You’re already on a healthy path. Turns out cooking food at a low temperature—through techniques like boiling or steaming—can help fight diabetes, according to a new study in the journal Diabetes Care.
For the study, researchers tested to see if cooking method affects insulin sensitivity—how your cells react to insulin—in overweight individuals. They recruited 74 overweight women and split them into two groups. Both groups were given similar ingredients (such as pork, chicken, eggs, and salmon) from which to cook meals. One group was told to fry, bake, roast, or grill their meals; because these techniques cook food at a higher temperature, they’re known to produce a harmful chemical called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). The other group was instructed to boil or steam their foods, which cooks them at a lower temperature and doesn’t produce AGEs.
After four weeks, researchers found that women in the low-AGE group had a lower resistance to insulin than those in the high-AGE group. Here’s why that matters: If your cells build up a resistance to insulin, they can’t absorb glucose properly—and having too much left in your bloodstream can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, says study author Susanne Bügel, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. The low-AGE group also consumed 22 percent less fat during the study.
While researchers don’t know the exact relationship between low-temperature cooking methods and insulin resistance, extra AGEs may increase oxidative stress and blood vessel inflammation, which can make it harder for cells to absorb nutrients like insulin, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of the F-Factor Diet, who was not part of the study.
What about the impact on fat consumption? Foods cooked using only hot water—i.e., boiling or steaming—don’t require extra fat, whereas frying, baking, roasting, and grilling often call for foods to be cooked with added fat (like oil or butter), says Zuckerbrot.