Grilling Your Food Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

The Effects of Grilled Food on Your Body

With Memorial Day just a few days away, this may not be a very popular subject.  Who doesn’t love to throw some meat and veggies on the grill (or “barbie” as my ex-Australian husband used to say) in the summer?  Saying it could be a health hazard is akin to saying apple pie isn’t good for you – right?   Not very American of me, I know.

While there is no intention to scare you away from your enjoyable summertime tradition, you may appreciate these few words of caution.

What’s So Bad About Grilling?

Grilling, or any method of cooking meat at a high temperature (i.e.  broiling in the oven or frying on the stove) creates some nasty chemicals.  Never eat meat that has been blackened by the heat.  That is the most toxic part. There are 3 particularly toxic chemicals that are formed when food is cooked at a high temperature.

  • Polycyclic Aromatic  Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – These carcinogenic bad boys are created when fat from your meat falls onto the grill and the result is smoke.  The smoke can transfer these PAHs to your food.
  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) – When your meat becomes blackened, these cancer-causing chemicals are formed.  Never eat charred food.  HCAs damage your genes as well as raise your risk for certain types of cancers.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products  (AGEs) – Food that is cooked at a high temperature which would  also include pasteurizing and sterilizing as well as grilling,  creates AGEs which go into your body when you eat the food.   Over time, AGEs can cause many health problems including inflammation (arthritis), diabetes, kidney decline and an increased risk of heart disease.  AGEs literally age the body.  Click here for more information on AGEs.

Tips for a Safer Grilling Experience

1.  Use leaner cuts of meat that don’t have a lot of fat.  Fat drips and causes flames which burns the meat.   Fish and chicken are good alternatives because they are naturally leaner.

2.  Do not use processed meat like commercial hot dogs.  They are already full of toxic ingredients and grilling them just compounds the danger.  Opt for organic hot dogs or beef patties.  Stores like Trader Joe’s have them at affordable prices.

3.  Oil the grill before you use it.  This will keep charred materials from sticking to your food.

4.  Pre-cook  your food in the house and then just finish it off on the grill.  You will get the flavor of grilled meat but less exposure to chemicals.  This method is also great if you are having guests and want to spend more time with them.

5.  Grill lots of vegetables (and even fruit).  Not only do they have lots of nutrition, they are less likely to get charred.

6.  Keep the grill clean.  Burnt bits of food clinging to the grill increase the chance of chemicals getting into the food.

There is no need to give up one of your favorite summertime activities. Just use caution when you use your grill and don’t overdue it by grilling on a daily basis.

To your Health!

Peter Gillham

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