Summer is one of the best times to have a barbeque in the backyard. While we enjoy the variety of foods we can grill in the outdoors, barbequed food can sometimes have significant health impacts. Here’s what you should know about grilled meats and how you can take a few steps to make your barbeque better for you.
What Makes Grilling Unhealthy?
Barbequing meat can cause the formation of carcinogens, substances that may promote the formation of cancer. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are carcinogens that form when meat is cooked through at high temperatures, especially when you are charring your meat. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogens that form when the fat drippings of meat create flames or smoke. While studies have conflicting results on whether or not grilling meat can lead to cancer, you may want to minimize your exposure to carcinogens if you can. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to minimize the formation of carcinogens in grilling.
Tips for Healthy Grilling
- Marinate your meat. Not only does this make your food taste better, but marinades can also have antioxidants that block HCAs from forming. Try marinating with herbs and spices that are rich in antioxidants like basil, mint, rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme.
- Grill at a lower heat. You don’t have to scorch your food to barbeque! Try grilling at a medium heat and flipping your food often. You can also set your food on a cooler part of the grill where there is no heat source directly below it. This will help reduce the charring and formation of carcinogens.
- Grill more vegetables. Vegetables add some healthy variety to your barbeque and can help balance with meat. Also, vegetables don’t have the amino acids that form HCAs in grilled meat, making them a great option. The same rules apply though; try not to overcook your vegetables, and grill them over indirect heat.
- Choose leaner meats or trim fat. You can help avoid the formation of PAHs by grilling leaner meats like chicken breasts, pork loin, or round cuts. If you have some fattier cuts of meat, consider trimming some of the fat so there is less fat drippage during the grilling process.
- Trim off the burnt bits. While some people love a little char on their food, no one wants to eat a whole piece of it. You can help eliminate HCAs just by trimming off the burnt sections of meat that are not appetizing anyway.
Barbequing is by no means the healthiest cooking option, but it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a grilled steak or burger every now and then. Follow these tips and have a healthy summer barbeque!