Safe Grilling Tips from Registered Nutritionist

Keep Summer Traditions Safe with These Grilling Tips

Summers are synonymous with ice-cold watermelon, berry pies, and the smell of meat, chicken or fish cooking on the barbecue. And with the 4th of July right around the corner, we’re gearing up to grill.  Many Americans, though, don’t realize that the types of foods we grill, and how we grill them can cause cancer.  “High heat can cause the carcinogens heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form.” (Mara Besch, Six Ways to Have a Healthier Barbecue, health.com).

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, produced when fats drip into coals and release smoke that clings to the outside of meat, are also carcinogenic. Consumption of HCAs and PCAs are directly related to colon and stomach cancer.  (Karen Collins, The Grilling Question, preventcancer.aicr.org).

So when you’re getting ready to grill this summer, grill smart and grill safe.  Done right, grilling our food is a great, lean way to eat healthy. Just follow these tips.

  • Grill your foods at low to medium low temperatures (HCAs begin to form at 325 degrees) . Make sure your coals are burning embers, not high heat. This will help decrease the char that forms on meat, which has a high carcinogen content.
  • Grill lean cuts of pork and steaks (trimming all fats) to reduce PAH smoke getting into your food. Or try grilling meat or pork on aluminum foil to reduce the PCA flare ups.
  • Flip your meat often, and keep it marinated while on the grill. “Marinating can decrease HCA formation by up to 96%.” (Karen Collins)
  • Use the spices that battle HCAs! Research shows that thyme,  sage, garlic, and rosemary can reduce HCA’s while grilling. (Mara Besch).
  • Well done is not the way to go. Those who consume well done meat are more likely to develop colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.
  • Go for the fish and skinless chicken. Grill veggies! They don’t contain HCAs but have that same smoky taste that will curb the grilled-taste crave!
  • Cut back on sugars in your barbecue sauce. Try bold, less sugary, ingredients.  You can have a delicious barbecue without all the added calories and sweets. Try Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, tomato paste, and low-sodium soy to add punch to your barbecue flavors and cut back on the sugar.
  • Watch the sweets because the sweet burns. A little molasses or brown sugar to sweeten the sauce is a great idea; however, that blackened barbecue burn you get from the grill is often because of too much sugar in the sauce.  And burned barbecue foods have high carcinogen levels.
  • Grilling can be a healthy part of every summer and 4th of July celebration. It’s just a matter of taking precautions and following these basic tips to keep your summer flavorful and body safe!

Check out these great grilling recipes:

Happy 4th of July!