Summer’s here, and outside is the best place to cook (flipping burgs with a cocktail by your side is surely one of life’s great joys). Grilling can be a delicious, healthy way to prepare all kinds of foods; you get loads of flavor in a short period of time (without the ubiquitous batter coating you find in so many summer foods). Nutrients also stay intact when grilling when compared to other forms of cooking. Plus, grill lines look pretty on just about anything you toss on those flames and just about scream summer.
While grilling is healthier than frying, etc., there are certainly some grill techniques and food choices that are healthier than others. Research indicates that some grilled foods (particularly meat) can be linked to certain types of cancer. There are two components in play here. First, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been linked to colon cancer and are found in well-done foods, most specifically in the charred or “crispy” portions of the food that turn black from the grill. Then there are heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, formed from intense and concentrated high heat.
The good news, these nasty PAHs and HCAs can be avoided without giving up grilling. Here are some super easy hacks for making this grill season your healthiest one yet.
Shorter is better. Try to not eat overcooked food from the grill (well-done meat has 3.5 times more HCAs than medium-rare meat).
Keep it clean! Make sure your grates are clean of any leftover burnt food particles.
Marinate. Marinating your meat with herbs, specifically thyme and/or rosemary, can cut back on HCA’s by up to 99%. Black pepper, allspice, and/or chives can also provide powerful protection against carcinogens. Avoid sugary marinades (which actually make things worse); go for lemon or vinegar and herb-based ones, instead.
No flare-ups. This can help with both kinds of carcinogens. Keep a spray bottle of water with you to put them out (without putting out your coals).
Seafood says summer. Fish and shrimp produce much fewer HCAs from high heat exposure than meat, and their lower fat content minimizes fat drippings to reduce PAHs from smoke.
Grill fruits & vegetables. PAH’s and HCA’s don’t form on produce, so create a rainbow this summer by grilling healthy fruits and veggies. Even when grilling meat, mix in some grilled veggies as well; the antioxidants from (hopefully organic) produce can help counteract the carcinogens formed as a bi-product of the grilling. (Remember: Rising Tide Natural Market boasts a 100% organic produce department, guaranteeing our customers the healthiest, most carefully curated produce at every visit.)
Some fruits and veggies that are awesome on the grill:
- bell peppers
Grill lean cuts of meat. The leaner the meats, the less fat dripping on the grill, and the fewer PAHs and HCAs formed. Also pick smaller cuts of meat, which cuts down on grill time.
Flip your burgs. Like we said above, there’s something to that flip. Turns out it also reduces the amount of HCAs that form. Use a spatula so you don’t pierce the burgers, causing fat to drip and HCAs to form.
Recipes for Healthier Grilling
Grilled Carrots with Cumin-Serrano Yogurt
Grilled Broccoli with Avocado and Sesame
Grilled Halibut and Bok Choy with Coconut-Lime Dressing
Charred Cabbage with Goat Cheese Raita and Cucumbers
Chili Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Scallions
Grilled Citrus Shrimp Lettuce Cups
Teriyaki Portobello Mushroom Burger with Garlic Mayo
Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula and Feta
Lastly, here are some general tips for successful grilling this summer!