Healthy Grilling Tips for Summertime

Healthy Grilling TipsLike many people, you probably enjoy the fun of a backyard barbeque with your family and friends while you savor the delicious taste and mouthwatering aroma of grilled food. But, some recent stories in the news might cause you to pause before you fire up your grill for this first time this season. For instance, you may have heard about a few studies that have identified a possible link between eating grilled food and having an increased risk of developing certain cancers, including pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Specifically, researchers have discovered that cooking food at very high temperatures can lead to the formation of cancer-causing substances known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). In particular, some scientists believe that a very high consumption of PAHs and HCAs has led to the development of cancer in some animals. With that said, no similar, large-scale studies of humans have been completed to date. So, should you be concerned?

While the answer is not clear cut, you needn’t retire your grill just yet. Until more conclusive information becomes available, here are some steps you can take to help ensure that the food you grill is both safe and tasty:

  • Choose high-quality cuts of meat – Processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, ham and bacon have added nitrates that can increase cancer risk. As an alternative, opt for whole cuts of steak, skinless chicken breasts, ribs, fresh seafood, traditionally made sausage or burger patties made of fresh, lean ground beef or turkey.
  • Flavor with herbs — Rubs and marinades that contain garlic, thyme, sage, and other spices have beneficial antioxidants that can help prevent the formation of carcinogens.
  • Use a meat thermometer — PAHs and HCAs begin to form at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s best to opt for a “low and slow” cooking process. This can help to bring out the natural flavors of meat without charring or overcooking it.
  • Add vegetables to the menu — Many vegetables are high in fiber, low in calories, and have many beneficial chemical compounds that can inhibit the DNA-damaging activity of HCAs. Also, raw veggies served on the side can provide the same satisfying crunch as potato chips, but without all the fat, calories, and preservatives. Finally, eating vegetables — grilled or raw — can promote healthy liver function, helping the organ to remove harmful toxins from the body.

There’s no question that grilling and eating outdoors are some of the greatest joys of summer. Plus, grilled food is healthier in some ways than its traditionally prepared counterparts. For instance, grilling requires the use of minimal oil, and as the food cooks, the unhealthy fats drip away.

If you’d like more tips on how to stay healthy this summer and throughout the rest of the year, be sure check out South Tampa Immediate Care’s full series of health articles online. Also, feel free to stop by or contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn about the medical services available at our walk-in clinic.