Summertime means that many of us are going to be eating a lot more grilled and barbecued food. We’ve been led to believe that grilling is a healthy way of cooking. Unfortunately it’s not.
Link to weight issues?
Grilling is often touted as a leaner and cleaner way to cook because it reduces the fat content of meat and fish, but research suggests that eating a lot of grilled food may actually be interfering with our ability to manage our weight. This is because when food is cooked in a dry heat it produces a compound called methyl-glyoxal (MG), a type of advanced glycation endproduct (AGE) which lowers the body’s protective mechanisms that control inflammation – one of major underlying factors that make it difficult to lose weight. (click here for more about weight loss)
Worse, cooking meat at high temperature, whether it’s red meat, poultry or seafood creates toxic chemicals called HCAs (heterocyclic amines). The intense heat of barbecuing and grilling (and yes - frying too) causes the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in the muscle of these meats to react with creatine (a chemical found in muscle) to form these potentially carcinogenic compounds.
Researchers can’t say for sure yet if HCAs directly cause cancer in humans (although they have established a firm link between HCAs and cancer in animals), but everything that is known about them suggests they are carcinogenic for humans too. Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services has classed them as a possible carcinogen. It makes sense to stay on the safe side and at least limit our consumption.
A few tips
Some might think I’m blowing it out of proportion – but the evidence suggests otherwise, and anyway, who wants to take chances? The good news is that there are plenty of common sense precautions we can take to limit the risk while still enjoying the traditional summer pleasures of outdoor grilling and barbecuing:
- Lower the temperature of the grill. Eat meat medium rare rather than well done.
- Make kebabs – smaller pieces of meat cook more quickly.
- Use marinades – studies show they reduce carcinogens (avoid sweet barbecue sauces that burn easily
- More vegetables and less meat – remember its only meat that produces HCAs, no limit on grilled vegetables!
- Keep the grill really clean so you aren’t transferring carcinogenic chemicals onto your food the next time you use it.
- Lastly, outdoor barbecues are often an occasion for considerable alcohol consumption! Be careful, drinking alcohol can enhance the carcinogenic effects of other toxic compounds.
Keep these tips in mind and enjoy a wonderful and healthy outdoor season!