Fire Up That Grill!
There’s just something about the smell and taste of grilled foods that cannot be replicated by any other type of cooking equipment. Perhaps roasted might come close, but not quite there. The taste and smell of a BBQ brings me back to incredible summer evenings and family BBQs filled with amazing memories. Whoever said food is just fuel maybe never experienced these types of beautiful events! Food elicits memories and can bring you back.
While burgers and hot dogs are the go-to at many BBQs, there are a plethora of other foods that taste just as delicious on the grill while being a lot NICER to your waistline. Even if you do pick lighter fare for your next shindig, be sure to take some precaution when firing up the grill to keep your cells healthy during BBQ season. I know… you didn’t know I was going cellular with this blog, but if you’re concerned about wrinkles, disease prevention and anti-aging, keep reading!
More and more research is beginning to suggest that grilling may not be without risks, but don't worry - this doesn't mean that grilling is off limits! There are several things you can do to help mitigate the nasty effects of the grill, allowing you to happily and healthfully eat at your next BBQ style event.
Here’s the problem and the solution:
When we cook foods at high temperatures, chemical reactions take place between the sugars, fats and proteins that create not-so-desirable compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
These chemicals are associated with a myriad of illnesses including Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammation. Plus... AGEs contribute to sagging skin AND wrinkles! I know… not the news you were hoping for.
So what can you do?
While the heat doesn't change the nutritional content of the food, it changes the total amount of AGEs present. Typically, animal protein cooked at high heats (think: grilling) will produce significantly more AGEs than if they were cooked at a lower temp. Not to worry, there are many spices and herbs that can help you out! Try adding some of the following herbs and spices on to the food you are about to grill; they can reduce these harmful reactions from taking place due to their high polyphenol and antioxidant content. Including: garlic, curcumin, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and or black pepper. Go ahead and stock up!
Another unfortunate side effect of cooking with high heat is the production of chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). While by no means am I advocating for a strictly raw food diet, AGEs & HCAs are something to keep in mind the next time you ask for your meat charred or well done.
Like AGEs, these chemicals have also been associated with cancer and oxidative stress, but also like AGEs, there are ways to diminish the amount of HCAs that you eat at your next BBQ. For example, one study showed that cooking your food on BBQ stones instead of wire lowers HCA production.
Consider scallops, shrimp or tofu! These options are low in calories (and mercury from the fish) and high in protein. You can place any of these on a grilling pan or through skewers and they taste great in a light marinade or with pineapple chunks. In addition, if you love tofu you’re in luck. Soy isoflavones may actually inhibit AGE production!
Plus compared to other foods, these, as well as oysters and lobster may not produce much HCAs to begin with. However, if shellfish isn’t your thing or you keep kosher it’s still beneficial to avoid processed meats due to the nitrates and preservatives. Instead try opting for chicken, veggie burgers or the least processed red meat you can find... like a nice cut of grass-fed steak or lamb chops. (Or, tofu as mentioned above).
If you’re still longing for a piece of chicken or meat on the grill, try marinating in a yogurt sauce. This has been shown to inhibit the formation of cancer causing compounds, and it's A LOT healthier than marinating it in a sugar laden sauce. Throwing in spices like black pepper, oregano, rosemary or thyme and letting it sit for at least 30 minutes has also been shown to be effective. Just in case you needed another reason to eat more fruits and veggies, here’s one- pineapple, peppers, corn, eggplant and peaches don't seem to produce HCAs when cooked and taste incredible on the grill!
Since most people bring food to BBQs, here’s your chance to bring protective healthy food with you! Offer to bring over side dishes containing some of your favorite cruciferous veggies. Cruciferous veggies include; green and red cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower as well as brussel sprouts –and have been shown to be protective of your DNA when eaten along-side meats cooked at high heats. So, throw some of those veggies together or make a cabbage slaw to enjoy with your favorite grilled meats.
And lastly, even if you don't plan on having an adult beverage or two at your next gathering, be sure to bring a Clean Slate when indulging in all that delish grilled food- not only will the turmeric alone help combat those damaging free radicals, but the N-acetyl cysteine, alpha lipoic acid and the DIM compounds will support in detoxifying your body!
Happy Healthy Grilling!