5 ways to enjoy a non-toxic cookout

Karen Malkin: Health Counseling

Enjoy a barbecue with health benefits! FIRE UP THE GRILL

Grilling. It’s a summer staple, and maybe you’ve already been putting your grill through its paces this season. After all, there’s nothing like eating a delicious meal outdoors with your family and friends when it’s gorgeous outside! However, there’s a dark side to this favorite activity: habitual grilling of meat (namely, red meat) can increase your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Knowledge is power

There are three cancer-causing molecules present when meat is heated at a high temperature:

  • Smoke released from fat drippings from meat or fish onto a heat source contains a potent carcinogen called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Molecules called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed by cooking meat at high temperatures. HCAs are formed through a chemical reaction between naturally occurring amino acids and creatine in the meat.
  • Advanced glycolytic enzymes (AGEs) present in the meat are increased when grilling. AGEs cause inflammation and oxidative damage in the tissues of your body, which can contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce toxins and still enjoy your BBQ!

5 non-toxic BBQ tips

  1. Marinate your meat. A Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry report showed that preparing meat in antioxidant-rich marinade can be effective. The researchers found that an olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic marinade cut HCA levels in chicken by as much as 90%.3 Marinating steak in red wine for 6 hours before grilling cut down HCA levels by up to 90% compared to unmarinated steak.4 Marinating meat in dark beer also has been shown to cut down on the PAHs present in the meat.5
  2. Go grass-fed. Grilling conventional grain-fed meat causes more AGEs to form due to a higher sugar content within the meat. In addition, grass-fed meat is lower in total fat than grain-fed meat, and cooking leaner meat reduces PAH formation.
  3. Lower the temperature. Cooking at a lower temperature creates more of a “roasting” effect than grilling, but it significantly cuts down on the HCAs formed in the meat. Levels of HCAs are much higher in well-done meat than in medium-rare cooked meat.
  4. Prevent flare-ups. Flames from the grill cause the formation of both HCAs and PAHs. Keep an eye on your grill and turn meats frequently to prevent this from happening.
  5. Don’t blacken your meat. Char-grilling your meat causes the formation of large amounts of HCAs. Do your best not to create that effect on your meat and avoid eating any blackened regions.

To make your cookout healthier, be sure to include salads and sides featuring nutrient-dense colorful veggies. The antioxidant properties of loading up on vegetables can help mitigate any damage done through cooking meat on the grill. Hope yopu are having a great summer!

To your good health, Karen