Whether you’re aiming to lose weight or develop healthier eating habits, keeping to your goals can be challenging during summertime when you have food-centric gatherings every weekend. While it may not be easy to choose a healthier option when everyone else is eating barbecue and making a mess, you will be able to reach your goal more quickly. People trying to maintain a balanced diet prefer grilled food over fried foods, thinking it is a healthier option. But, is it?
No matter what recipe you make, the science of eating is complex. Molecular gastronomists have figured out the science behind cooking food, but once we swallow something that has been laboratory-aged, we have no idea what is happening. Researchers are only now beginning to understand how important all of the bacteria living in our gut might be because we weren’t even familiar with our stomach’s acid until 1825.
In the case of answering questions such as “How good is a wine for you?” or “How good is chocolate for you? “, science is pretty ambiguous. But what about one of the oldest cooking methods? Can science tell us anything about grilling?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some nutritionists say yes, and others say no.
How Is Grilling Bad For You?
There is plenty of research done on the effects of grilling, and many are still going on. So far, all the high-temperature cooking methods such as frying, roasting, grilling, and broiling are examined as a group that has shown enormous statistics that point out so many negatives we can’t look through.
These research findings raise the following concerns:
- A group of compounds known as AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) is formed in foods when they are heated, especially when using high-heat cooking methods. AGE intake is negatively associated with inflammation and increasing disease risk such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Cooking animal proteins like beef, pork, chicken, or fish creates specific compounds known as HCA (heterocyclic amines) and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and their amount quickly increases as temperature and duration increase. It has been shown in animals that these are carcinogenic at high doses, but researchers have not found that humans can have cancer.
- Studies have found that those who consume a larger volume of well-done or barbecued meats have a greater likelihood of developing colon, pancreatic, and bladder cancers.
Should I Grill Or Not Grill?
The findings we stated above from the various researches done to date are alarming. However, we shouldn’t conclude without getting the whole picture together, the pros, cons, and the unknowns.
There are more things to consider, like these health issues are more related to the cooking method, food type, or both. So, should we not use the grilling method? Or do we pick healthier choices of food items and avoid processed meats?
There are many unknowns regarding grilling, making it hard to compare it to other food system risks – such as pesticides, artificial coloring, and sugar.
Can summer cookouts be affected by all this? Ultimately, it’s up to the individual, but I believe the key is awareness. While the research has raised several health concerns, the results also provide a lot of insight into reducing possible health risks when grilling.
Therefore, you should not stop your summer grilling plans, and you can follow healthier ways and tips to reduce the risks associated with grilling.
Science And Grilling: What Do They Say?
Facts About The Charcoal Used In Grilling
As a matter of first principles, a grilled steak is not very healthy for you with its smoky flavors and a charred exterior. During the cooking process, a substance called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) is released into the atmosphere when fat drips on hot coals. There are things called heterocyclic amines (HCA) that are present in the meat’s smoky and charred outer layer (as well as inside if you prefer things very well done).
In 1999, the National Cancer Institute conducted a survey, PAH and HCA have higher rates of developing Colorectal cancers in humans. Another study was conducted in the year 2009, which depicted that properly grilled streaks can increase our risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 60% than those who don’t eat steaks or like them bloody. Both the substances are found dangerous in the studies done on mice and caused tumors. Therefore, the thing is, it can develop even more tumors in humans if neglected for long.
The news isn’t great. It’s science, after all! The caveats, of course, are many. First and foremost, these chemicals are not known to be carcinogenic in large quantities and as with everything else, consuming them in moderation is not as bad as it sounds. Furthermore, by avoiding flare-ups (which occur when drippings hit the heat source), you can greatly minimize HCA action, and you can greatly reduce PAH action by not charring meat.
Some studies recommend microwaving it for 30 to 90 seconds to make your meatless drippy on the grill. However, since this would go against the whole idea of grilling, you can just cover it with aluminum foil to catch the juice or prepare your charcoal grill so that heat is kept from reaching the meat.
Seeing the bright side
The amazing thing is that science has discovered a way to reduce carcinogens in grilled meat by marinating it in delicious things, i.e., drenching it in delicious flavors. Every study I saw showed that menthol cigarettes were healthier than regular cigarettes, as long as they were menthol!
According to research done by the University of Hawaii in 1999, marinated meat reduces the risk of dangerous chemicals produced while grilling- be it in Hawaiian or Indian style. The researchers attributed the magic qualities of Marinade to the moisture it added, which prevented the meatless from charring and made it sticky for PAHs to stick to.
However, there was a 2010 study that found serving meat with rosemary before grilling can reduce HCA levels in the end product up to 90%. Earlier studies had found that garlic, onion, tart cherries, and honey also prevented the growth of dangerous chemicals, and similar studies have the same finding. Stop eating grilled steaks as it is not completely healthy for you. Yet, everyone will find something to love, such as Garlic and Rosemary Lamb, Grilled Rosemary Chicken, and Grilled Spareribs with Cherry Cola Glaze.
Smoke From Grilling Makes Air Smokier
There are numerous ways to minimize or even prevent grilling’s health hazards, but there was one that was pretty clear (and not that surprising). There is no comparison between charcoal and propane grills in terms of their effect on the environment. According to a 2009 study, a charcoal grill’s carbon footprint was three times bigger than that of a gas grill throughout the grill’s lifetime.
In terms of CO2, a lot of this can be attributed to the way charcoal is made–a smoky, wasteful process–but the grill itself produces smoke too. If you’re really concerned about environmental impact, you can always cook under the sun with a SolSource–a solar cooker that emits no CO2.
How Grilling Compares to Other Methods of Cooking
It is important to note that HCA and PAH aren’t just produced by grilling meat–you can also create them by frying them, as well as other high-heat methods. Regardless of how you cook a slice of meat, once the heat hits 300 degrees, more HCA is formed, no matter how long the meat is cooked over that heat.
Methods such as boiling, baking, and slow cooking (including barbecue, if you do not include grilling during your ‘cue regimen) do not produce nearly as many carcinogens as grilling and frying.
The compounds listed above are only one component of the entire complex web of how diet impacts the body. The fat and salt of a slow-cooked ham might be worse for your health than the fat and salt of grilled chicken, but either would be better than a chicken-fried steak. It is best to consume anything in moderation–though if you are a die-hard char addict, you should consider adapting your palate to the medium-rare.
The Best Ways to Minimize Grill Risks
There have been alarming research about carcinogens of a summertime cooking technique everyone loves. You can grill food that is both delicious and safe by following these tips. In the wake of all the new research regarding carcinogens and grilling, it has become a bit of a reputation. However, this does not mean you should never eat grilled food. If you follow our tips, you can enjoy flavorful and safe grilled foods.
- Prepare your meat by marinating it.
Meat can be reduced in carcinogens by marinating. Researchers marinated steaks with three different oil, vinegar, and herb and spice combinations in a study at Kansas State University. Marinated steaks grilled for 57 to 88 minutes reduced carcinogens to a significant degree. Dozens of studies have confirmed this effect. The marinade is believed to create a protective barrier between the meat’s proteins and grill heat, but the explanation for how it works is hazy. Alternatively, the marinade may contain antioxidants that can combat carcinogens.
While grilling, marinating the food reduces its ability to produce potential carcinogens. There are many healthy marinade recipes that will add flavor to whatever you are grilling. Choose low-salt marinades if you use bottled marinades.
AGE levels were almost half those of meat without a marinade after 60 minutes of being sat in an acidic marinade. Protein should be marinated with an acid-like vinegar or lemon juice for 30 minutes, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AIRC).
- Keep Your Grill Clean
Be careful not to have your meal charred because of the char on the grill. Make sure your grill is clean by using a wire brush. Make certain no grill-cleaning bristles get into your food or your guests by wiping it down with a cloth or a bunch of paper towels. Cleaning the grill grates prevents the buildup of harmful carcinogens and enhances the taste of your food.
In a high-heat method such as grilling, both the method and the cooking time can lead to harmful chemicals being formed, so the AIRC recommends limiting the cooking time. For example, you could cook fish or kebabs quickly by using quick-cooking proteins. You could also grill long-cooking meat for just a few minutes to get some grill marks and flavor. After that, you can remove the dish then finish it off at a lower temperature in the oven.
Cooking food faster reduces the possibility of it developing dangerous charring. You shouldn’t cook meat beyond its desired temperature. For ground poultry, that’s 165 degrees; for red meat or mixtures, it’s 160 degrees; and for steaks or chops, it’s 145 degrees.
- Make use of herbs
When beef is grilled, rosemary compounds reduce HCA production significantly. It is thought that herbs possess antioxidant and protective properties, so add fresh rosemary, oregano, sage, or thyme to your meals.
- Put a new spin on your plate.
Consider adding extra vegetable side dishes to your menu or grill extra vegetables to decrease your meat serving. AGEs and HCAs are found in high concentrations in foods that are high in protein and fat, but foods that are high in carbohydrates and lower in fat (like vegetables) retain some of the lowest levels. What’s the bonus? Protects the body from harmful compounds by containing antioxidants and phytochemicals.
- Make Wise Protein Choices
In addition, grilled cured, preserved, or smoked meats contain dangerous HCAs and PAHs that increase the chances of heart disease and cancer. Grilling poultry, pork, or fish is a good alternative. Occasionally, you can eat lean beef, lamb, or other red meats, but avoid processing meats as much as possible.
- Fire and Smoke
If you can avoid direct flame contact as much as possible, you should use a grill pan or let the flames settle for a few minutes before cooking. In the process of cooking food, fat and juice drip from the food, generating smoke that sticks to the food and produces PAHs. Trim fat before cooking and choose leaner proteins to reduce PAH production.
- Be careful not to char.
Protein foods should not be cooked until well done, as this increases the production of HCAs as well as browning on the outside and charring, which increases the production of PAHs. You can also make meat more quickly by using one of the quick-cooking options given above. You should discard the charred portion of food if the food becomes charred.
While charred meat is inevitable (and it tastes good), incinerated meat has more carcinogenic compounds. The coals shouldn’t be too hot before you grill fatty meat. It is highly recommended to avoid eating any blackened portions of meat, as they may contain carcinogens.
- Lighter fluid can be omitted.
Grills powered by gas and charcoal both start easy, but charcoal adds a little extra flavor. Just be sure not to use lighter fluid to add more chemicals, as this can be detrimental to the grill (including presoaked briquettes). Use coal and a little newspaper instead to make a fire. A charcoal chimney for your grill will make this process a breeze and is very inexpensive.
- How to reduce the number of bacteria on hamburgers
USDA recommends that beef should be cooked to 160 degrees to kill the common E.coli bacteria. You can cook the beef immediately if you prefer medium-rare. In studies on E.coli reduction, flipping burgers every 30 seconds was recommended if you use store-bought beef. According to another study, one of the patties with the highest E.coli level was the one flipped over.
- Fire up the grill
There may be hot spots as well as cooler ones on your grill, depending on the model. Avoid flaming certain parts of the grill more than others by working the whole surface. The food can be moved to a cooler part of the grill if you do have a flare-up.
Explore The Healthier Food Items To Grill
It’s not as difficult as you may think to make the best grilling recipes. A special sauce, seasoning, or marinade, plus the right ingredients, will give your family an incredible dish during the grilling season for years to come. Using the perfect sear on the main vegetable dish or side dish can make it the star, and grilled fruit as a dessert will never disappoint you. Here are some quick and easy recipes for your grilling enjoyment. We’ve selected picks we think you’ll like.
- Grilled Shrimp(Lime and Oregano)
Salmoriglio is typically made in a mortar with lemon and is made with a simple sauce. Swordfish or any other meaty fish is also delicious when spooned over the sauce.
- Chicken Breasts Grilled With Lemon & Thyme
Marinating bone-in chicken breasts in a spicy mixture of red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, and olive oil is a great way to make them taste fantastic. Make the chicken breast even spicier by adding more red pepper or marinating them for a longer period of time.
- Red Curry Chicken
The entire chicken will take 30 minutes to grill when it is cut out of the backbone and flattened. Red curry paste, coconut milk, and brown sugar are all mixed together in a very simple, Thai-inspired mix by Melissa Rubel Jacobson.
- Marinated Flatiron Steak
Top blade steaks, also known as flatiron steaks, are marbled cuts of beef that are cut from the shoulder. A rectangular sheet of uniform thickness and shape (just like a traditional iron), the plate can be easily butterflied for quick cooking on the grill—a bold, spicy marinade made with fresh orange juice and smoky chipotle flavors Melissa Rubel’s meat.
- Grilled Corn
When corn turned starchy within hours of being harvested, this was the mantra back in the days when we would go for a walk before cooking it. Fresher varieties are sweeter and stay tastier for longer. Three seasoned salts are used here to flavor the ears.
- Grilled Parmesan Eggplant
It’s lighter than fried eggplant Parmesan, thanks to Grace Parisi’s Calabrian grandmother making this grilled version.
James Holmes says half-shelled oysters may wobble on the grill. It’s a good thing because some butter will spill onto the coals, smoking the oysters simultaneously.
- Grilled mushrooms, celery, and grapes
According to Amanda Cohen, celery is a vegetable that people either love or hate, and she hopes to impart a love for all vegetables. The bitterness and crunch of celery are offset beautifully by oyster mushrooms and grilled grapes.
- Grilled Fish
Gail Simmons was inspired to develop this recipe for grilled halibut by a meal she had in Spain on the Bay of Biscay. Fish with a simple preparation lets its natural flavor shine-if it’s really fresh, the lemon will only enhance its flavor. For flaky fish not to fall apart while cooking, make use of a grilling basket.
In Conclusion: The Good & The Bad
If you’re entertaining friends and family or need a quick dinner for a weeknight, grilling is a great option. You can grill various cuts of lean meat, from lamb tenderloin to strip steaks to flanks and rib eyes. Aside from being nutrient-dense, red meats such as beef and lamb contain niacin, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12, among many others.
Tenderizing and enhancing the flavor of meat can be achieved by marinating it before grilling. In addition, marinades with no added sugar have also been shown to reduce the production of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) – chemical compounds known to cause cancer.
Charred meat tastes great, but you may want to reconsider. Animal studies have linked charring with cancer-causing HAAs. Furthermore, cooking meat over an open flame – for example, grilling – where fat drips and produces smoke can result in the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). There is also evidence that PAHs cause cancer.
Grill to perfection and significantly reduce the level of toxic HAAs and PAHs released when cooking meat, poultry, and fish by monitoring the temperature of the grill and the doneness of the food.