It’s officially grilling season and with it comes the annual warnings of the dangers and hazards of grilling. The warnings range from charring and burning meat to the threat of metal grill brush bristles. Safe and healthy grilling is simple and easy. The grill is not to blame, and meat is not the enemy! Grilling is an exceptionally healthy way to cook, but unfortunately it has been falsely demonized. Safe and healthy grilling just requires care and common sense. Eat your veggies, don’t burn your meat, and be careful with that grill brush.
HCA’s (heterocyclic amines) and PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) have been identified as potential carcinogens and can be offset through food preparation i.e. spices and marinades and food pairings. A grill full of vegetables along with a variety of proteins such as fish and chicken is the healthy answer.
Tips for Safe & Healthy Grilling:
1. Replace your grill brush and say no to metal bristles! Throw away your old grill brush! There are several alternatives to metal bristle brushes available. Always make a point to clean your grill surface at the beginning of each cook and replace your grill brush regularly.
2. Meat is not the enemy- just don’t burn it: The research is not in dispute here. Charred, burned meat can contain known carcinogens (HCA’s and PAH’s) but there are plenty of ways to off-set them. Grill food to proper internal temperature. Avoid too much open flame or grilling too well done. Grilling faster can also reduce the amount of char.
3. Eat more vegetables: A balanced diet consists of vegetables, fruits, and protein. Grilled vegetables contain antioxidants that research shows neutralize carcinogen formation. Research points to this neutralizing effect with the use of herbs and spices too.
4. Grill more kinds of vegetables: No butter or calorie-rich sauces required. Sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and squash caramelize at grill temps letting the natural sugars deliver the best and tastiest flavor. Grill peppers, onions, zucchini with just a touch of olive oil and pepper. Enjoy all that antioxidant power working to improve your health while offsetting the effects of cooking red meat.
5. Grill more fish and chicken: Grilled chicken does not have to be slathered in barbecue sauce. A simple rub of herbs and spices is healthier and contains more antioxidants. Salmon is ideal to spice up and grill hot and fast like a steak. Is there a tastier way to eat fish than grilled?
6. Spice up grilled meats: The antioxidant power of herbs, particularly rosemary, paprika, garlic, sage and black pepper retard the formation of HCA’s.
7. Marinade meat before grilling: Research again points to significant reductions of HCA’s. Be careful not to use flammable marinades as they may do more harm than good.
8. Ban flare-ups: Eliminating flare-ups is the best way to control char and gain control of the grill.
Grill for your best health and be safe out there!