5 Tips for Safe and Healthy Grilling

     With summer quickly approaching and temperatures rising, the thought of standing over a hot stove or heating up your house with the oven is becoming less and less appealing. During this time of the year, many people prefer to move most of their cooking outside to the barbecue to save on their rising energy bill and to enjoy the nice weather. But what you may not be aware of are the health risks associated with this type of cooking. Usually grilling means cooking over extremely high temperatures and open flames which can produce harmful carcinogenic chemicals like Heterocyclic Amines (HCA’s) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) that can be detrimental to our health if consumed frequently in large amounts. The longer and hotter foods are cooked the more HCA’s and PAH’s are produced. But there are safety precautions you can take to make grilling perfectly safe and healthy! Here’s 5 tips to always stick to when you’re using the grill:

  1. Choose your meat wisely - avoid highly processed meats, such as sausages and hot dogs, since these have a much stronger link to cancer than minimally processed cuts of meat such as steaks, chicken thighs, and fish filets. Also, choose leaner cuts with minimal fat, as fattier cuts drip more lipids into the grill causing greater PAH formation.

  2. Avoid sugary sauces and marinades - use herbs and spices instead to add flavor. Sweet sauces such as barbecue or teriyaki sauce can increase HCA production by 1.9 - 2.9 percent. If you must use these types of sauces, add them on at the very end so they are less likely to burn and char.

  3. Use acid-based marinades - using the right marinade can decrease HCA production by up to 99 percent! Include acidic juices in your marinade such as vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice.

  4. Use a lower temperature and don’t overcook your meat - by sticking to med-high temperatures between 375 - 450 degrees you’ll avoid charring the outside of the meat and allow for a more even doneness. Not to mention your meat will be juicier and more flavorful! Try cutting large pieces of meat into smaller pieces, flipping your meat often, and covering the grill with foil to reduce drips and flare ups.

  5. Include LOTS of fruits and vegetables - Fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients which help protect our bodies against carcinogens. The more color the better. My favorite ways to grill veggies is to make shish-kabobs or foil packs with a variety of mixed veggies.

By sticking to these guidelines, your summer grilling can be safe, healthy and delicious! If you liked this blog, I’ll be back next week with more helpful tips about how to avoid overindulging at your summer festivities. 

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