When the weather heats up, so do the barbecues! Grilling is a fun and flavorful way of cooking, however there are also some hidden health dangers. If you keep a few things in mind, you can make barbecues healthy and delicious for your entire family.
Choose lean cut meats
A recent study* from Kansas State University published in the Journal of Food Science has linked grilling to the production of cancer-causing agents called Heterocyclic Amines (HCA). Basically, these HCAs are produced when meats come in direct contact with intense heat and flames. Typically, the parts of the meat that become the hottest and char are the fattiest. Choosing leaner cuts will greatly reduce these carcinogens, as well as increase the heart health of your meal.
Marinate your meat with fresh herbs, citrus juices and olive oil
According to the same study, creating marinades with fresh herbs, citrus juices and olive oil has been shown to reduce harmful carcinogens by up to 99 percent. It has also been shown that marinating your meats can reduce the formation of HCAs. As luck would have it, this is also a delicious and healthy way to add flavor. Check out this article for one of my favorite summer marinades!
Select the best grilling tools
There are certain tools that are essential to a healthy cookout. If you are using a charcoal grill, skip dousing the briquette—the brick surface—with chemical-filled lighter fluid and try using a chimney starter. You simply fill the chimney with charcoal and newspaper. Light the newspaper and in about 20 minutes you will have perfectly heated briquettes without the anxiety of building the perfect pyramid or cursing the wind! I also recommend getting a grill basket to cook chopped vegetables or delicate foods such as fish or tofu that might fall through the grill rack.
Consider grilling vegetables and fruits, not just meat
Finally, while we typically associate grilling with steaks, burgers and hot dogs, there are many other foods with flavor that can be enhanced by the barbecue. One of my favorite summer treats is grilled pineapple! I simply quarter the pineapple and remove the core. Then I squeeze fresh lime juice over the pineapple and place it on the grill for about five minutes. You can garnish with a little honey or agave and serve warm and delicious!
And remember, a few small steps can lead to big changes.
*Study conducted by Fariba Emamgholizadeh, Kansas State University, “Effects of marinades on the formation of heterocyclic amines in grilled beef steaks.” The research was supported by the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service with the USDA, the American Meat Institute Foundation and the National Pork Board Checkoff.