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How To Cook A Healthy Meal On The Grill

July 2, 2020

During almost every summer holiday, you’re probably going to find yourself in front of the grill. Whether you’re cooking or preparing a meal to take to a backyard barbecue, the American Institute for Cancer Research wants you to take something to heart every time you grill. When it comes to eating healthy, what you choose to cook shouldn’t be a priority, but how you cook it.

The Grill And Cancer Risks

According to the National Cancer Institute, grilling meat produces chemicals called HCAs and PAHs. HCAs and PAHs cause changes in DNA that may increase your risk of developing cancer.

HCAs are heterocyclic amines and studies show that they are carcinogens. These chemicals form when meat, poultry (including grilled chicken breast), or fish are cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, broiling and barbecuing.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when fat and juices from meat are grilled directly over a heated surface (or open fire). The juices drip onto the surface or fire, causing flames and smoke. It’s the smoke that contains PAHs. They adhere to the surface of the meat. PAHs can also form during other food preparation processes, such as smoking of meats.

How To Decrease The Risk

While the evidence suggesting that compounds produced in meat through the grilling process cause cancer is limited, there are some things you can do to decrease your risk. Here’s what the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends.

Their researchers recommend following these guidelines for healthy grilling:

  • Marinate: Some studies suggest that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease the formation of HCAs. Scientists think that the antioxidants in these marinades block HCAs from forming.
  • Pre-cook meats: If you are grilling larger cuts, you can reduce the time your meat is exposed to the flames by partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove first. Immediately place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill. This helps keep your meat safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.
  • Lean cuts: Trimming the fat off your meat can reduce flare-ups and charring. Cook your meat in the center of the grill and make sure to flip frequently.
  • Mix it up: Cutting your meat into smaller portions and mixing it with veggies can help shorten cooking time.
  • Go green: Grilling fruits and vegetables don’t produce HCAs. Plant-based foods are also associated with lower cancer risk.

There are a number of ways to prepare your vegetables on the grill. Trial and error can be a fun way to experiment with new vegetables and figure out what is best for your palate. There’s no denying that food hot off the grill is delicious, but the cancer risk from charred meats is one you don’t have to take.

Plus, vegetables are essential to a healthy diet, which can be hard to maintain if you’re always on the go this summer. With so many barbecues to attend, you can use our guide to developing a healthy diet on a busy schedule. It contains simple steps for healthy eating at home and on the go.

healthy eating