“Fire it up,” said every grilling enthusiast ever at the first glimpse of warm weather. Yes, it’s that time of year when grilling makes its comeback. The smell of steak and burgers grilling on an open flame can be picked up from neighborhood to neighborhood through the city.
And, why not? Everyone knows that grilling makes the food better, right? We’ll assume you know the answer to that question. But, did you know there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that when you grill, your health doesn’t take a hit?
Vicki March, MD, co-director of UPMC BodyChangers, offers a few quick tips to help you grill healthy.
Choose Lean Meats
When fat drips from your meat and reacts with the flames below, it can produce smoke filled with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – a carcinogen that has been known to contribute to colorectal and pancreatic cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. So by choosing lean meats, you can help reduce the amount of fat that can react with the flames. For additional protection, put your meat on foil and poke holes in it. This way the fat can still escape, but the smoke from the flames will have a tough time breaking through.
Clean Your Grill
You’ll especially want to clean your grill after it’s been sitting all winter. Using a wire brush is best. But be sure to scrub it down after every use so you keep the buildup of carcinogens down. Once a year, you need to do a deep clean. Start by taking apart the grill layer by layer and clean each part thoroughly. Also, make sure there is nothing blocking the flow of gas. If you have a clogged burner, you’ll have uneven heat, thus…unevenly cooked meat.
Keep the Heat Down
When you char your meat, you’re doing more harm than good. According to the National Cancer Institute, high, intense heat breaks down the creatine in the meat, forming the carcinogen heterocyclic amines (HCAs). This carcinogen also is directly related to causing colorectal and pancreatic cancers. So be sure to monitor your grill every few minutes to make sure your meat isn’t turning into charcoal. A good tip to avoid charring is to briefly cook your meat in the microwave for a few minutes, which can reduce HCA levels by up to 90 percent.
You know that marinating your meat makes it even tastier, but it can also help reduce the amount of carcinogens after grilling. According to a study at Kansas State University, marinating has been shown to reduce carcinogens by up to 88 percent. Scientists are not sure what causes the reduction, but it may create a protective layer between the meat and the flames of the grill. In addition, the antioxidants found in the marinade may halt the development of carcinogens directly.
Here’s a quick and healthy lemon and rosemary marinade recipe you can try next time you grill out!
- 3 lemons
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary (2 tablespoons dried rosemary)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cut lemons in half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl or resealable plastic bag. Add in remaining ingredients, mix well.
Here’s to a healthy – and tasty – grilling season!
What’s your favorite healthy food to grill during the summer?
UPMC BodyChangers, is a weight loss management and support program that helps members achieve their weight loss goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle through an array of exercise classes, education and support groups, and group outings. Based at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, UPMC BodyChangers creates a supportive community of like-minded individuals who want to be happy, healthy, energetic, and fit by taking better care of themselves.
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