Grilling season is right around the corner!
We all LOVE grilled foods – meats, vegetables, whatever your preference, it is simply better grilled. At CrossFit West of the River, we promote a Paleo diet and lifestyle. Those who have embraced this diet know that it is made much easier once spring/summer roll around and it’s finally grilling season! BUT, did you know that grilling can increase the carcinogens in your food? If you grill any meat at very high temperatures, it will naturally produce heterocyclic amines (HCA’s, also found in cigarette smoke). This results from the combination of creatine and sugars, which are both found naturally in meats (but not vegetables – so grill away at those!). The fat drippings from meat also smoke up into the other grilling-induced carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We want you to eat Paleo so that you live longer, healthier lives…but then grilling can cause cancer?! Here are a few tips to reduce those risks:
1. Don’t eat your meat well-done: well done meat has 3.5 times more HCA’s than medium-rare meat.
2. Choose your meats wisely: the highest concentration of HCA’s comes from bacon, the second highest from fried pork, followed by beef, and then chicken.
3. Marinade: Teriyaki marinade has been found to reduce HCA’s by 67%; marinating in a dark beer, like a stout, has been shown to reduce HCA’s by more than 50%, and a turmeric-garlic sauce has reduced them by 50%. On the other hand, research has shown that when a thick concentrated commercial barbecue sauce with additive sugars was used, it actually TRIPLED the number of HCAs! Bottom Line: Marinate – as a general rule, use about 1/2 cup of marinade for every pound of food. And it only takes a few minutes to get the full cancer-preventing effect. Longer times will just add more flavor.
4. Don’t set your barbecue on “blow torch.” Start on a medium-high temp and flip the meat often enough so you don’t get charring.
5. Trim excess fat
6. Cover grill with punctured aluminum foil to prevent drips from hitting the hot coals (and leading to those PAHs)
7. Finally, don’t eat the char. Just don’t. It’s burnt meat and it has no flavor. Toss it.