To grill or not to grill. That is the mixed message you hear in the news this time of year. While some say grilling is an excellent way to cook healthfully, others say BBQing can cause cancer. So what’s the verdict? Well, let’s back it up and take a look at why grilling gets a bad rap. Then we’ll lay out what you can do to make sure you grill in the healthiest way possible.
Can grilling be harmful?
Yes and no. While there’s no better way to make your food leaner or more tasty than with one of America’s favorite summer pastimes, grilling meat- not veggies- at high temperatures can pose some danger. Grilling meat at very high heats leads to the formation of these carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are created when grilling animal proteins at high temperatures and PAHs are formed when fat drips down into the grill. The good news is you can avoid the harmful effects of grilling by following these 3 easy tips.
1.) Grill veggies, fish and lean cuts of protein
Since the carcinogenic compounds that are the result of cooking fatty animal protein at very high temperatures, BBQing your favorite fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins like tofu or seitan are fine. So what about fish since that’s not a plant protein? Well, since fish is generally cooked at lower heats for shorter times, then you are safe to grill fish, which is great news. Afterall, there’s nothing like grilled fish tacos during the summer.
2.) Avoid charring your meat
Who doesn’t love a good char! However, burning your meat in the wonderful way that those black marks do are not so healthy. The solution? Either char your veggies or if you do char meat, do it infrequently.
3.) Use marinades
Marinading your meats, poultry and fish has been shown to reduce cancer causing compounds. However, you have to choose your marinades wisely. Ones that incorporate citrus are great because they are rich in protective antioxidants. On the other hand, marinades that have honey or sugar can result in burning, which can create those cancer-causing compounds.
Bottom line is there’s no reason to avoid grilling. It is one of the best ways to add flavor and health to your cooking. Also, it’s a great way to cook when hosting a summer party. So get outside and grill away. And while you’re at it share your favorite grilling technique below in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!
For information on nutrition services in San Diego County, including corporate wellness, group workshops and individual virtual counseling, contact us at JessicaSpiroRD@gmail.com.