Saturated fat is our enemy per your doctors orders and the FDA and loads of “health” authorities. When you place a piece of meat with marbling of fat on the bbq you change the chemistry and create bad products called, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and if that’s not enough the high heat changes the meat and creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) both of which unfortunately are pretty bad actors. They can create cancers and a host of issues with our internal systems.
Before you give up the grill…….. hang in there…….. the first problem, the fat, needs only a minor change to make things better. Trim the fat !!! And the HCA’s can be addressed with a healthy dose of herbs. Marinades are an ideal way to decrease the bad chemicals radically and who doesn’t like some herbs ?
The char left on the grill is an accumulation of some of the bad chemicals. After each bbq removed the black crap, leaving a clean starting point.
If your cooking meat or poultry consider a marinate in olive oil and lemon juice-based marinades. Research shows that these two items reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by up to 99% . The other news the marinate adds flavor and keeps the meat moist.
The Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University discovered that using basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or sage in marinades drastically reduces the formation of HCAs. As part of a previous study, Kansas State found that adding rosemary to hamburger patties reduced the HCA levels by 30 to 100 percent. Finally the lower the temperature the less bad chemicals are produced.
If your dead set on charing the food…take a dose of anti-oxidant supplements. Better move, but not ideal. And on a final note consider not charing your meats. Use foil, stem, or consider a wood plank or baking…..
Need more info ? Call us at the Center of Health 541.773.3191
Is BBQ’ing Killing Me
By Chef Lauren Cox, Closer To Your Food
May is National BBQ month, and for many of us, BBQ’ing represents a shift in seasons and a warm welcome to the summer days ahead. In many ways, we can take a page from natural food author Michael Pollan’s book, and argue that cooking with fire is what really differentiates us as humans.1 Our ancestors discovered that harnessing the flame and using it to cook food made it more edible, thus making us distinctly human. Cooking over a flame, however, has come under fire (pun intended) lately for a few reasons, but most notably for the production and consumption of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
What are HCAs?
HCAs are chemicals created when muscle proteins from animals are cooked at high heat temperatures. HCAs are mutagenic, which means they can cause changes in your DNA that may cause cancer,2 hence they are classified as a carcinogen.
How Do I Avoid HCAs?
In high enough temperatures, the amino acids, creatine and sugars in meat are what form HCAs. Accordingly, there are a few rules of thumb to follow if you still want to enjoy cooking over an open flame without the damaging effects:
- Eat leaner meats. The more fat that is in the meat, the more that drips into the flames as it cooks and causes a flare. This creates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another carcinogen that adheres back to the meat. Look for leaner cuts of meat, or if you are using a fatty meat, try trimming off any excess and reserve it for other cooking methods.3
- Eat more plants. Plants do not contain the same compounds as meat and creatine, thus the theoretical char formed on them during high-heat cooking such as grilling is less damaging. Just as a general rule of thumb, those of us who can be attracted to a meat-centered diet really should be eating more plants to help bridge nutrition gaps in our diets.
- From a chef’s point of view, marinating is common sense as it makes the meat juicier and more flavorful. From a nutrition point of view, marinating can actually help prevent the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Studies show that most types of marinades, especially acidic and herb-heavy ones, provide the most protection – up to a nearly 99% reduction in HCAs.4
- Keep it clean. Clean and season your grill before you use it and clean it very well when you are done. To season your grill, lightly brush the grill with healthy oil with a high smoke point, such as rice bran oil, to avoid unnecessary charring. The build-up of that char is – you guessed it – HCAs.
- Cool it down. Lower and slower is the key here, so try using lower heat briquettes. Or, once your grill is nice and hot, reduce the heat and keep it under medium.
- Find a platform. Avoid direct flame contact by using a barrier. The jury is still out on using tin foil, but we suggest items that actually add flavor such as a Himalayan salt brick or cedar planks.
The takeaway? Grill smart. Personally, I could not give up cooking over an open flame and the joys it brings to me, but I can give up many of the things that contribute to the formation of HCAs. We really want to make a difference in the way food nourishes you and sustains your long-term health, so try a few of these pointers this grilling season.
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