6 Healthy Grilling Tips for Memorial Day

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

American FlagThis weekend is the unofficial start of summer. Even though this Memorial Day we will be at our daughter’s wedding, my wife Jan and I love this kickoff-for-summer weekend. First of all, it reminds us to take time to remember those who have served and sacrificed to defend this great nation—folks like our own uncles and her father. And, as it is for all of you, part of that honoring has traditionally brought us together on outdoor decks and patios to reconnect with family and friends—and enjoy food on the barbecue.  

Yet, if you’re not careful you could be grilling up more than you bargained for...

As many of you know by now, you should greatly limit—or better yet eliminate—charcoal grilling. That’s because charcoal releases carcinogenic agents, called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and HCAs (heterocyclic amines), as fat drips off the meat and onto charcoal.

But even with a gas grill, you can end up with advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in your food that act like harmful free radicals in your body, creating oxidative stress and resulting in premature aging.

Here are 6 grilling that can help to keep you safe:

1)      Clean Your Grill: Before cooking, make sure you remove all food particles on your grill so you avoid eating any burned skin or fat.

2)      Precook Your Meats: Partially cooking your meats before putting them on the grill helps to reduce the time they are exposed to the high heat.

3)      Use Tongs, Not a Fork to Flip Your Meats: Piercing your meat with a fork results in juices and fat falling on the flame creating flare-ups that can cause carcinogens to form.

4)      Choose Your Marinades Wisely: Marinades that contain vinegar or lemon juice help to speed up cooking and reduce the amount of time your meat spends on the grill. Plus, a marinade consisting of 10% plain soy sauce and 1% sugar has been found to cut the production of COPs (carcinogenic compounds) by more than 60%.

5)      Grill Chicken Bone Side Down: To ensure that the bone, not the meat, absorbs a lot of the heat from the grill. Just take the chicken meat off the bone, and remove the skin (which protects it from the high heat) before eating.

6)      Beware of Using Foil: Some foods, like fish, can fall apart on the grill so you may be tempted to use foil. But beware. Just like cooking with aluminum cookware, foil can leach aluminum into your food and contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Instead of using foil, I cook fish skin side down and peel the meat off before serving.

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