A good grilling on healthy barbecuing
So summer is officially here and with it comes all the social drinking and barbecues that can unravel our good intentions so quickly.
Grilling can be such a healthy way to cook but we are very good at loading up on all the unhealthy sides and sweet drinks. If you want to get through the summer months feeling your best (especially with the America's Cup about to go into full swing) make sure salad and water are staples on your table.
Also, on a serious note, exactly how you prepare and cook your barbecue mains makes an awful lot of difference when it comes to cancer prevention.
As tasty as it may be, there is no escaping the fact that charred food is linked to the formation of carcinogens. In all seriousness, two compounds, Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) arise when meat is cooked at a very high temperature or comes into contact with flames. The Environmental Protection Agency in the US has found sufficient data linking these compounds to tumours, birth defects and damage to the immune system.
This does not mean you can never chargrill again, but it is a really important factor to consider if many of your meals are cooked on the barbecue. Fortunately there is a silver lining here too — marinating meat is a really effective way of mitigating HCA and PAH formation. Here is the information with a few other tips as well. If you bear these in mind, you can make sure your BBQ season is a healthy one!
Healthy tips for the grill-master
1. Cook over a lower heat for longer. Obviously, it is important to make sure that poultry and meat are cooked to the proper internal temperature, but there is no harm in taking a little more time if you can spare it.
2. Given that flames flare up when fat drips down on to the coals, try and choose leaner cuts of meat, trim visible excess or cook marbled cuts of meat on a shelf away from direct heat.
3. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes — the impact of which is impressive. In a recent study, the American Chemical Society noted that marinating meats in beer slowed down carcinogen formation by up to 53 per cent (the darker the ale, the better.)
However, one study showed that a combination of olive oil and lemon juice was most effective, reducing cancer causing compounds by 99 per cent. I will post an example of a great olive oil and lemon juice marinade on the Facebook page over the weekend. Whichever route you choose though, you will get amazing moisture and flavour with a marinade!
4. Add herbs to your marinade (fresh or dried) as these may reduce carcinogen formation too, according to Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University.
Tear the herbs to allow their oils to infuse the marinade and consider adding extra fresh herbs to an accompanying salad, too.
5. Make half your plate vegetables. I know it sounds like a lot, but the “five-a-day” recommendation is, quite frankly, a starting point. Vegetables are full of the phytonutrients and fibre that help to reduce cancer risk.
It is also about what those vegetables replace too. If by eating more veg you eat less carbs, you are on to a winner. I am very pro carbs, but they should only form about one quarter of your plate – especially in the evening.
6. Choose cruciferous vegetables (eg. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels.) A study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention illustrated that the glucosinolates found so prolifically in cruciferous veg are protective against both HCAs and PAHs. Try a broccoli slaw or the Hong Kong confetti salad (made with red cabbage) on my Facebook page.
7. And finally, clean that grill! A mega pain I know, especially if you only get round to it the morning after. However, cleaning the grill reduces the amount of burnt char you eat. Char intake is linked to premature ageing as well as carcinogen formation, so it is a double whammy!
• The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the Managing Director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutri fitandnaturalnutritionbermuda