Is Grilling as Healthy as We Think?
Cooking outdoors or barbeque grilling is an American past-time for many from spring to fall (and for some year-round). However, recent scientific research and nutritionists’ reports indicate that charring foods on an open flame, especially meats, may produce carcinogens. These carcinogens are chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Consuming well-cooked meat on a regular basis by grilling, frying, etc., can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 60 percent. Studies show that meat eaters’ risk of getting cancer of the lung, breast, stomach increased when they consumed meat that was cooked for longer periods of time. Even with all of this gloom and doom, there is no need to fear or give up your grilled foods for the sake of your health. Following the healthy grilling tips below can help you take the required precautions to minimize the potential health risks.
HCAs are found in the purest state on the charred edges of grilled meat. These have been shown to cause cancer of organs such as stomach, colon, etc. To minimize exposure to the carcinogens in grilled foods, it is important to clean the grill prior to cooking. This will prevent charred debris from sticking to the food. If the meat gets charred while grilling, by cutting those pieces off, you can drastically reduce your exposure to potential carcinogens.
#2: Precook food before it is grilled
We don’t expect you to follow this tip because even at our core, it seems a bit ridiculous. However, it is worth mentioning…to reduce PAHs that are formed, it is worthwhile to precook food before grilling. (Gasp…that’s sacrilegious!) This allows some of the juices to drain prior to placing them on the grill and they cook for less amounts of time on the grill. PAHs are formed typically when juices from the meat drip on to the hot surfaces or coals and create smoke. This smoke carries the carcinogens, which swirl and deposit them on the meat.
#3: It is healthier to grill lean cuts of meat
If you grill often, then it is important that you grill lean cuts of meat such as beef tenderloin, flank steak and chicken breasts. Do not grill prime cuts of beef. Round cuts of beef and meat are the healthier options suitable for grilling. Leg and thigh meats are fattier. Trim any fat before placing on the grill. Less fat means fewer flare-ups while grilling. This results in reduced charring and less smoke from burning of dripping juices.
Grilled vegetables are healthier to eat than their meat counterparts. Bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini are vegetables that taste good when grilled. Quick cooking of vegetables helps them to retain many of their valuable nutrients that are usually lost during boiling. When charred they do not form the same harmful chemicals as when meat is grilled. However, avoid coating the veggies with starchy sauces before grilling.
#5: Grilling fish is healthy
Grilling cooks the fish by directly applying heat from the bottom. Consuming grilled fish more often is healthy as they contain precious omega – 3 fats. It is better to grill thick/firm fish steaks than the thin ones as they tend to break and char. They are low in fat and do not increase risk of cancer when grilled unlike meats.
#6: Grill smaller pieces
Grilling smaller pieces of meat or fish reduces the cooking/grilling time. Marinating the fish also helps to reduce cooking time. This in turn helps to reduce the carcinogens being formed. If you are grilling fish on planks, it helps to keep the fish moist in order to reduce the amount of charring.
#7: Grill with a nonstick grill mat
Grilling with a nonstick bbq grill mat has many advantages. Not only does it help keep meat, fish, and vegetables from sticking to the grill or falling through the cracks, but it reduces the formation of carcinogens by reducing charing and flare ups. It also aids in low calorie cooking by eliminating the need to use butter and oils.
#8: Use recipes that make grilling safe
It is also important to use quick cooking ingredients when grilling meat. Use marinades that use lemon juice rather than those that have sugar. In case the recipes use sugary marinades, use them only for the last two minutes.
#9: Use fuels that cause less pollution
Using propane and natural gas grills contributes to less atmospheric pollution than charcoal grills. If you have a charcoal grill, use a chimney starter to light the fire. It may be a healthier alternative than using lighter fluid. You can stop yourself from inhaling harmful chemicals. Studies have also revealed that particulate matter released through grill fires can cause respiratory problems.
These tips will help make grilling healthier and reduce the risks of potential carcinogens caused by grilling. Let us know what you think below.