Avoiding Barbecue Health Dangers: Safer Grilling Made Easy

Saturday, 01 Sep 2012 09:52 AM

 

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It's time to fire up the grill for one last summer meal. In many parts of the United States, Labor Day marks the official end of the grilling season, but with all of the warnings about the dangers of grilled foods, you may regretfully decide to pass on a last barbecue.
The key to healthy grilling is to avoid creating cancer-causing chemicals that form when meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry, is cooked at a high temperature. According to the National Cancer Institute, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.
But don't lose heart — the following tips can help you enjoy a delicious, healthy grilled holiday meal.
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• Clean your grill. Wash your grill with hot soapy water. Starting with a clean grilling surface reduces the risk of charred bits sticking to your food.
• Precook meats. By microwaving foods for a few minutes before grilling, they'll need less time on the grill, which cuts down the possibility of cancer-causing chemicals having time to form.
• Trim meats of excess fat. Buy lean cuts as much as possible and trim off excess fat, which causes flare-ups that can char meat and create cancer-causing chemicals.
• Marinate meats before cooking. A Portuguese study found that marinating meats for six hours before grilling can reduce the levels of HCAs by up to 88 percent. And a study published in the Journal of Food Science found that marinating steaks for an hour in commercially available marinades reduced HCAs — a Caribbean blend reduced them by 88 percent, an herb blend by 72 percent, and a Southwest blend by 57 percent.
• Don't char or burn meat. Carcinogenic substances are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures. Cook meats more slowly on a lower heat, which also makes the meat more tender.
• If you do grill over a high heat, turning the meat continuously instead of leaving it on a high heat without flipping can reduce carcinogens.
• Use a meat thermometer to check meat's doneness — overcooked grilled meats contain more chemicals.
• Trim charred areas from cooked meats.
• Add colorful vegetables to the grill. They don't form harmful chemicals and they supply a range of cancer-fighting nutrients. According to experts, the healthy phytochemicals in vegetables can actually stimulate the body to convert harmful HCAs to an inactive form that the body easily eliminates.
If you choose to use a marinade, use these tips from Newsmax nutrition expert Vera Tweed for a healthy, tasty barbecue:
• Marinades that contain onion and garlic are especially effective. "German researchers identified the most effective ratio of these in a marinade, in very precise terms: 31.2-percent onion, 28.6-percent garlic and 14.6-percent lemon juice," says Tweed. "While that may be far too detailed for the back yard, it gets the idea across."
• Try a marinade containing a mixture of brown sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. One study found that this mixture decreased levels of some carcinogens by up to 99 percent in chicken breasts when they were grilled for up to 30 minutes, Tweed says. "Longer cooking times, and marinating in sugar alone, increased carcinogens."
• Pick marinade ingredients that are high in antioxidants. These provide more protection, says Tweed. "Topping the list are fresh herbs: Oregano, rosemary, thyme, and dill (tasty with fish), and dried versions of these are next best," she says. "Among spices, the best ones include paprika, garlic powder (although fresh garlic is better), curry, chili, and black pepper."
Making marinades isn't difficult. "For example, try mixing olive oil with fresh oregano, rosemary, and garlic and marinate your meat overnight," says Tweed. "Don’t worry about exact quantities of ingredients. If it smells great, it shouldn’t disappoint. Most of all, don’t be afraid to experiment."
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© HealthDay

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