February 18, 2013

Grill for the Better: How to Grill Healthier

More articles by »
Written by: Anna

There’s nothing that satisfies hunger quite like a perfectly charred piece of meat, but there are certain precautions you should take to ensure you are cooking your meat in the healthiest and safest way possible.

Otherwise, you could experience some negative side effects from that fresh-off-the-grill dinner. As scary as it sounds, if grilled improperly, BBQ’d meat could contain cancer-causing carcinogens.

If you still want to enjoy that savory meaty flavor of grilled piece of meat, follow these crucial pieces of BBQ advice from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas:

1. Char Veggies, Not Meat

When you char proteins such as beef, chicken, or fish, harmful chemical compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) can form on your food.

Vicki Piper, RD, is a senior clinical dietitian at the University of Texas, who says that HCA’s can actually “damage the DNA in your genes, which leads to cancer development.”

And sadly, scraping the charred bits of meat off before you eat won’t fix the issue, so it’s important to be cautious when grilling to avoid increasing your risk of cancer.

Vegetables, on the other hand, do not form HCA’s like meat does when they’re charred. If you enjoy that burnt and blackened taste of the grill, opt to char your greens instead of your main course meats.

2. Marinade For Flavour & Health

Aside from kicking up the flavor and tenderness of your meat, a marinade can also function as a way to decrease the formation of HCA’s. Piper explains that soaking meat in an acidic marinade such as a vinegar or lemon-based marinade can reduce HCA formation by up to 96%.

A great combination is the tang of vinegar or lemon juice with fragrant herbs and spices such as mint, rosemary or tarragon.

However, make sure you aren’t using oil-based marinades, because they can flare up if dripped over heated coals.

3. Trim The Fat Before You Grill

There’s another reason to trim the fat off your meat besides trying to reduce calories and fat intake. When you grill almost any type of meat on a BBQ, the fat tends to drip through the grate and onto the heated coals, which results in a smoke that is brimming with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s).

The PAH-infused smoke will in turn rise from the grill to coat your delicious meat and transfer those harmful substances to your dinner. Trim off the fat before you cook and your meat will be better for you due to lower fat content plus less exposure to PAH’s.