Summertime is synonymous with backyard grilling & barbecues, food, drink and cheer.
However, in recent years, “grilling” itself has been alarmingly linked to carcinogens. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCA) are the two main carcinogens that form in protein-rich foods when they’re grilled and charred, leading to increased risk of pancreatic, lung, stomach, and breast cancer.
BUT FRET NOT! You do not need to give up on your grill, there are ways you can minimize exposure to PAHs and HCAs while balancing both taste buds and waistline expectations!
So fire up your grill and practice these 5 healthy grilling tips:
1. Clean your grill
It may seem obvious, but cleaning your grill before and after you cook will prevent any previously charred buildup from transferring to your food. Preheat the grill for 15 minutes then scrape the grates with a wire grill brush … and lemon juice! The heat and acidity together will help clear off any residual char build up.
After cooking, brush both sides of the grates again so they’re ready for your next use!
Skip sugary, ‘traditional’ barbecue marinades and, instead, use a base of lemon or vinegar with healthy oils to act as a barrier between your meat protein and open flame. Combine antioxidant-rich herbs such as rosemary, thyme, garlic, and red pepper flakes to add flavor and fight free radicals.
3. Keep heat low and cook slowly
Extreme heat causes higher carcinogen development, so it’s best to keep your grill at a lower heat and cook your meat for a longer time.
Try cooking below 325°F, the temperature at which HCAs form. Since grilling time will be a bit longer, it’s helpful to invest in a meat thermometer to make sure your meat is cooked to a safe level. If any of your meats develop a charred edge, trim before serving.
4. Trim Fat and Skin
Did you know fat drippings on open flame create smoke containing harmful PAHs and HCAs? Aside from opting for leaner cuts of meat, limit your exposure to potential carcinogens by trimming excess fats from meats.
Cooking poultry? Remove skin prior to consuming to reduce your saturated fat and overall caloric intake.
5. Opt for more fruits and vegetables
Last but not least, leave space on the grill for fruits and vegetables! Not only are they healthy, cholesterol-free nutritional powerhouses, they don’t create PAHs and HCAs when charred.
Experiment with grilled corn-on-the-cob, thinly sliced and marinated eggplant, zucchini, red onions, asparagus, skewered peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms!
For dessert, try grilling halved peaches, nectarines, bananas, apples, and pears. Top with ice cream or whipped coconut cream and a dash of cinnamon to really wow.
Complete your barbecue bash with a fresh summer salad, like this Apple Fennel crowd-pleaser, a healthy party dip like this Edamame Hummus, and a fruity cocktail (have you seen our Tropical Freeze blend? Let’s just say it’s 100% YUM, with or without alcohol!) for a true summer treat.
What are some of your favorite summer barbecue recipes and tricks?
Bring the perfect 6-pack to your summer party with Project Juice organic cocktail mixers – absent of refined sugars and additives (bye, bye hangover).