This is a post that I first wrote in 2016- I want to repost and update since we are gearing up for summer and Memorial Day is right around the corner.
To grill or not to grill- that is the question…
Ok- really? That is a crazy question! We live in Texas where it is 90 in December. Of course we grill! Here is the thing though- you have to do it right or it is a recipe for disaster. Why is that?
A little thing called HCA’S or Heterocyclic Amines. These are a group of compounds that form when proteins, sugars and creatine in meat react at high temperatures. This occurs when we cook meats at 400 degrees and above. When heated, these compounds combine to form a potentially dangerous reaction that can lead to cancer, increase oxidative stress in the body and they may even be neurotoxic.
Talk about killing the party atmosphere Dana! But wait- I do have some tips to save the outdoor barbeque and make your body happy and healthy.
1. Apply vitamin E directly to your meat- ground or larger cuts. Hint- grass fed beef is four times higher in vitamin E so quality does count.
2. Marinate your meat, veggies or tofu prior to cooking with herbs, spices and aromatics. You can make a marinade or a dry rub. Make sure not to use a tomato based barbeque sauce to marinade as it doesn’t help decrease HCA’s. You can put it on after.
3. Use Dark Beer as a marinade- this results in 90% les HCA’s.
4. Cook meats at temps lower than 400 degrees, mound charcoal off to one side, flip meat frequently and cut off black char.
5. Last- pair your meat with the right guest! Fermented foods like sauerkraut or Kimchi are good due to the fermentation/good bacteria present.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts all contain compounds that inhibit the toxicity of HCA’s. Green tea, red wine, blackberries, red grapes, watermelon and spinach have all shown to reduce the toxicity of HCA’s.
Also know – good old fashioned charcoal and lighter fluid is made from toxic chemicals. Lighter fluid plus charcoal plus match equals a problem. Petroleum-based lighter fluid produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and leaves petroleum residue on food and in your lungs. Skip the lighter fluid! Try these healthier ways to get the grill going:
- Charcoal chimney starter ($10 to $35): It looks like an oversized metal beer mug with a grate near the bottom. Put in the charcoal, ignite it with paper, and in 15 to 30 minutes the briquettes are good to go.
- Electric charcoal starter ($10 to $20): This is a metal coil you bury in a mound of charcoal and plug in. In 8 to 15 minutes, the fire’s on its way.
That said, it’s better to eliminate charcoal completely. A propane or natural gas grill is cleaner and more energy-efficient. Charcoal produces soot that irritates respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and releases the carcinogenic VOC benzene, so stand out of the smoke. Also avoid quick-start charcoal soaked with lighter fluid and charcoal with additives, such as sodium nitrate.
Be safe on this holiday and serve safe food!
Happy Healthy Grilling!
This piece was adapted from the original article found in the Natural Grocers monthly flyer titled Master the Art of Healthy Grilling by Heather Pratt MNT and Lindsay Wilson. Checkout Natural Grocers on West 7th in Ft worth, Tx.