- By Deanna Segrave-Daly
- In 2019
- May 15, 2019
Grilling Safety For National Barbecue Month
by Helen Agresti, RD
It’s time to fire up the grill!
Those of you that experience long winters can relate to the excitement of being able to enjoy a meal outdoors. The distinct aroma and flavor of grilling make this seasonal pleasure one of the most celebrated ways to come out of hibernation. The warmer weather also allows you to be more physically active outside and utilize locally grown produce. But, is grilling the healthiest way to cook your food? Well, it depends on what you grill and for how long it’s grilled.
Grilling typically involves fish, chicken, and higher fat protein choices like beef and pork. When these proteins are cooked at high temperatures, there is a risk of two mutagenic chemicals being formed on your food. These chemicals are known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs can form when the amino acids and sugars in animal protein are grilled or pan-fried at temperatures above 300 °F or the animal protein is cooked for a long period of time. PAHs are formed when the juice and fat of the meat drops on the flame or heat source. PAHs can also attach to protein in other methods of cooking, such as pan-frying and smoking meats.
According to the National Cancer Institute, studies have shown that HCA and PAH exposure in animal models can cause cancer. However, the number of HCAs and PAHs administered to the animals in these studies were a thousand times the dose that a human would normally consume.
Here are a few tips you can follow to decrease your exposure to harmful chemicals while grilling:
- Choose leaner cuts of meat. Skinless chicken breasts, fish, ground chicken and turkey contain less fat and are healthier options.
- Trim as much visible skin and fat from the meat as possible.
- Marinating can help create a barrier between the meat and potential carcinogens.
- Keep grilling time to a minimum by choosing smaller cuts of meat.
- Flipping meat often while grilling may decrease the number of carcinogenic amino acids formed.
As an even healthier alternative, you don’t have to worry about HCAs or PAHs forming on fruits and vegetables. Filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables will provide an abundant amount of disease-fighting antioxidants.
These Grilled Fruit Kabobs are perfect for promoting a kid-friendly environment in the kitchen and an easy recipe for your next outdoor meal.
Helen Agresti is a registered dietitian in private practice in Erie, PA. She specializes in weight loss, sports nutrition, eating disorders, digestive diseases, food sensitivities, and childhood obesity. She is also employed by the PA Bureau of Autism, counseling children and adults with Asperger’s. Helen enjoys sharing her passion for fitness, cooking, and traveling with her husband and five children.