Independence Day is here at last! And what 4th of July would be complete without a delicious meal on the BBQ? Yet, you’ve probably heard about the link between grilled food and cancer. Here are 9 ways to minimize your risk and make all of your summer BBQs healthier:
1. Keep a watchful eye to prevent BBQ flare-ups and the resulting charring of your food.
2. Use lower to medium cooking temperatures. When foods like meat are heated over high temperatures or come in contact with flames, certain compounds can form. These compounds are called: Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). Both compounds are known carcinogens. But, you don’t need to remember their names to lessen your risk of exposure to them.
3. Marinate meat in olive oil and fresh lemon juice-based marinades. Research shows that these two items can reduce the formation of the cancer-causing compounds by up to 99 percent while cooking. Not to mention that they tenderize the meat, add great flavor, and help keep it moist during cooking.
4. Choose foods that are low in fat like vegetables, lean cuts of meat, poultry or fish. Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are primarily formed when fats are heated to high temperatures or fall into the flames and create smoke. By choosing lean cuts of meat and vegetables which are naturally low in fat, you reduce the chance of these compounds forming at all.
5. Trim excess fat from meat prior to cooking it (for the same reason as number 3).
6. Choose specific herbs for your marinades. These herbs include: basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that these herbs drastically reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines. Simply use one or more of these herbs, preferably fresh, in a marinade prior to and during cooking. Plus, they add tremendous flavor.
7. Avoid overcooking vegetables. The longer they cook the more certain vitamins like vitamin C and B-complex vitamins break down. So don’t overcook them.
8. Add more vegetables to the grill. One of the easiest ways to make your BBQ healthier is to add more veggies. Making kebabs is a great way to do this. By alternating lean meat and vegetables, the veggies will keep the meat moist and add fiber, flavor, and nutrients.
9. Clean your grill prior to every use. Not only is it more appetizing to eat food that’s been cooked on a clean grill, but you’ll be lessening the amount of char that you’ll be eating. The charred parts of food can cause free radical formation in your body and since free radicals are linked with premature aging, disease, and tissue damage, it’s best to reduce your exposure as much as possible.
If you’re trying to eat healthy, you really can have your grilled food and enjoy it too.
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