Tips for Safe Summer Grilling
With the grilling season upon us you might find yourself reaching for lean grilled protein, such as fish or chicken, at your next BBQ. Traditionally, BBQ grilling has been touted by our weight loss surgeons as a healthier, and still tasty, way to prepare meat and poultry (when compared to cooking methods like frying). Grilling relies on heat from flames underneath the food, while frying/sauteing, uses fat (oil) to transfer heat to food. Fried foods, which are high in fat and calories, have also been linked to a risk of early death according to this study on the health dangers of fried food published in the BMJ. Comparatively, grilling your food uses little (if any) added fat making it a heart healthy and nutritionally superior choice. Unfortunately, grilling is not without its own caveats. Read on to learn our important tips on how to grill safely so you can enjoy that chicken healthfully and without guilt this season.
HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons) are two compounds that are formed when meat, poultry, and fish are prepared using high-temperature cooking methods (such as grilling or baking):
- HCAs are formed when amino acids in the muscle of the meat react at high temperatures.
- PAHs are formed when fat and juices from the meat drip onto the fire below causing smoke and flames.
Animal studies published in Carcinogenesis show that high consumption of these compounds causes an increase in certain cancers in animals, although population studies have not established such a link with humans. Given this information, it’s probably still a good idea to reduce your exposure to these compounds if possible.
Ways to Reduce Exposure to HCAs & PAHs
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends the following strategies to reduce exposure to both HCAs and PAHs when grilling:
- Marinate: Marinating meat before grilling reduces the formation of HCAs. Specifically, the AICR recommends using a marinade that contains vinegar, lemon, or wine along with oil, herbs, and spices. Scientists are still trying to figure out why these ingredients have this beneficial effect.
- Partially cook the meat before grilling: If you pre-cook the meat in the microwave and then move it to the grill you reduce the amount of time the meat is exposed to the flame, which inturn reduces the amount of PAHs that are formed.
- Cook over a low flame: Also, remember to flip the meat or poultry often. Doing so will reduce the amount of both PAH and HCA.
In addition to grilling meat or poultry (or instead of) we encourage you to try grilling fruits and vegetables! According to clinical studies, colorful fruits and vegetables contain inflammation-reducing antioxidants, and they also don’t form HCAs when grilled! Additionally, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which can help you feel full and aid in weight loss.
We recommend trying this amazing recipe for grilled peaches and goat cheese from the AICR.
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