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The Strange Reason This MD Says You Shouldn't Cook Your Veggies Too Crispy

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Why this MD says you shouldn't cook your veggies too crispy

Whether you're partial to roasting, sautéing, or firing up the grill, there's just something about a crispy, charred vegetable that makes it a menu item staple. Maybe it's the smoky, burnt flavor, or perhaps it's that satisfying crunch—whatever it is, it's sublime.

However, according to functional medicine physician Robin Berzin, M.D., you don't want to be cooking your veggies too crispy. She shares on the mindbodygreen podcast: "You get those AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) from the black stuff on charred foods, which is not so good for you." Cue the collective gasp from all of us charred-veggie lovers. 

What happens when you char your veggies. 

AGEs are a product of the glycation process (hence the name advanced glycation end-products) that happens when protein or fat combines with sugar in the bloodstream. These pro-inflammatory compounds accumulate naturally as you age, but it's when they start to pile up that becomes an issue: Too many AGEs can result in oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, and they're associated with a host of other health issues (think heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and they even have a role in photoaging and loss of skin elasticity). 

So, too many AGEs is not a good thing, noted. But here's where your cookware comes into play: Research has shown that when foods are exposed to dry heat at high temperatures, they accumulate a significant amount of AGEs. In particular, grilling, broiling, roasting, searing, and frying all accelerate AGE formation. And the more char the food has, the more evidence of dry heat (and AGEs) it's amassed. 


What can you do?

The easiest way to limit your AGE exposure is to cook at lower temperatures. In fact, research has shown that shorter cooking times with less heat can reduce AGE formation, as well as cooking with "moist heat" instead of dry (a case for steamed veggies, if you will). 

However, people crave a good, charred vegetable from time to time, and that's OK! Realistically, burnt veggies every once in a while won't do tons of harm. As Berzin notes, "In tiny amounts, you'll be OK." You just might want to switch up your cooking methods throughout the week. You also might want to toss said vegetables with lemon or vinegar before cooking: One study showed that food marinated in acidic solutions for one hour before cooking had limited AGE formation.

The takeaway. 

We're not telling you to ditch your love for crispy, charred veggies—we'd never!—but when it comes to AGE formation, you might want to switch up the menu from time to time. Perhaps opt for steamed, poached, or boiled cooking methods every once in a while; they may not offer that burnt crunch you love, but there are still tons of ways to play around with the flavor

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