Canada Day is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate than with a backyard BBQ party! Everybody loves to get out and get grilling on the barbeque in the summer months, so it’s a total buzz-kill to know that high-heat grilling is actually linked to some pretty serious side-effects like cancer.
There are two kinds of carcinogens that form when grilling meats; one cancer-causing compound called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) is formed from the high heat cooking of the actual meat itself, and another compound called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is formed when the fat drips down and creates smoke. That smoke rises up and hits your meat and so do those cancer-causing compounds. (For more on the HCAs and PAHs that are formed on BBQ’d meat click here.)
But, what’s summer without a BBQ? How can we still get out and enjoy our grill and keep our health in check?
Don’t worry, I got you.
To make your life a little easier I’ve compiled a short list of various ways you can make your BBQing a little healthier this summer!
- Go meatless: Opt for more (or all) veggies instead of meat. Veggies don’t form those carcinogenic compounds. Mushrooms, zucchinis, bell peppers and onions are a good place to start. Plus, fruit like peaches and pineapples make for great grilling. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Speaking of iceberg, leafy greens are fantastic on the grill: romaine, radicchio or spinach are all great (just don’t bother with actual iceberg lettuce cause it’s basically just water).
- Choose better quality meat: If you are going to eat meat, choose organic, free-range, grass fed meats from a local farm that you trust. I know that can be hard sometime, but there are now lots of online options for delivery and farmer’s markets are a great place to source too. Animals raised on the foods that their bodies are designed to eat have less unhealthy fats, more Omega 3s and antioxidants (like vitamin E)
- Go lean and unprocessed: Choose leaner meats for the grill so that less fats drip down causing that carcinogenic smoke (PAHs). Also, leaner meats like fish and poultry have less of those particular amino acids that transform into carcinogens. Oh, and steer clear of processed meats. Definitely not a good option for the grill (or for human consumption in general).
- Don’t burn baby burn: Don’t overcook things. Well done equals unwell! Don’t char your meat!
- Don’t eat the black bits: If you DO accidentally char your meat, cut the black bits off because they are hotspots for carcinogenic chemicals. While we’re at it, clean your grill before cooking so you don’t get remnants of that charred junk on your food.
- Let veggies take centre stage: If you’re eating meat, make the veggies the star of the plate! The antioxidants in fruits and veggies may help to offset some of the harmful effects of HCAs and PAHs (especially brassica’s like broccoli, kale and cauliflower etc.) which have been shown to reduce the cancer-causing mutated amines)
- Marinate: Especially in antioxidant-rich foods and spices: think lemon, garlic, rosemary, thyme, onions etc. There’s usually always a reason cultures have been preparing foods a particular way for centuries. This is one of them. The antioxidants can help offset the carcinogenic compounds. And yes, even beer and wine will work!
- Use coconut oil instead of olive oil: Coconut oil is more stable at higher heats. Just don’t use too much because the oil will drip down causing flare-ups and more smoke.
- Cook longer and on lower heat: If you have time, cook meat at a lower temp for longer.
Let me know what you think. Are you a well-done kind of griller? Or do you cook long and low? I’d love to know what you do to make your BBQ healthier. Post a comment below or hit me up here, here or here! Happy grilling!