Healthy tips for grilling meat on the barbecue
After a back-to-back morning in the clinic, I lay in the park in the sun for a few minutes at lunchtime. After weeks of wondering if the weather was ever going to warm up, it really feels like summer might be on its way.
I’m longing for some salty sun-kissed days and, with them, the weekends that feel like a mini-break. The smell of sun cream still gives me a holiday thrill. Growing up in England, we only needed it for about three weeks of the year; we are so lucky with our weather here.
Although, given that the AC has packed up at home, I’m not sure I’ll be saying that in August. The whole system needs replacing as they no longer make the units we have. I had heart failure when BAC told me we had a $10,000 project on our hands. For the love of God, pass me a fan already.
Fortunately, we can do a lot of cooking outside in the summer. Barbecues are amazing for taking dinner outdoors and it seems so much more fun that way.
Grilling can be such a healthy way to cook, but we are very good at loading up on all the unhealthy sides and sweet drinks. If you want to get through the summer months feeling your best, make sure salad and water are staples on your table. In addition, and on a serious note,exactly how you prepare and cook your barbecue mains makes an awful lot of difference when it comes to cancer prevention.
As tasty as it may be, there is no escaping the fact that charred food is linked to the formation of carcinogens. Two compounds, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), arise when meat is cooked at a very high temperature or comes into contact with flames.
The Environmental Protection Agency in the US has found sufficient data linking these compounds to tumours, birth defects and damage to the immune system.
This doesn’t mean you can never chargrill again, but it’s a really important factor to consider if many of your meals are cooked on the barbecue. Fortunately, there is a silver lining here, too; marinating meat is a really effective way of mitigating HCA and PAH formation. Here is the information with a few other tips as well. If you bear these in mind, you can make sure your barbecue season is a healthy one!
Healthy tips for the grillmaster
1, Cook over a lower heat for longer. Obviously, it’s important to make sure that poultry and meat are cooked to the proper internal temperature, but there is no harm in taking a little more time if you can spare it.
2, Given that flames flare up when fat drips down on to the coals, try and choose leaner cuts of meat, trim visible excess or cook marbled cuts of meat on a shelf away from direct heat.
3, The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes, the impact of which is impressive. In a recent study, the American Chemical Society noted that marinating meats in beer slowed down carcinogen formation by up to 53 per cent (the darker the ale, the better). However, one study showed that a combination of olive oil and lemon juice was most effective, reducing cancer-causing compounds by 99 per cent.
4, Add fresh herbs to your marinade as these may reduce carcinogen formation too, according to Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University. Tear the herbs to allow their oils to infuse the marinade and consider adding extra fresh herbs to an accompanying salad too.
5, Make half your plate vegetables. I know it sounds like a lot, but the “five-a-day” recommendation is, quite frankly, a starting point. Vegetables are full of the phytonutrients and fibre that help to reduce cancer risk. It’s also about what those vegetables replace too. If by eating more veg you eat less carbs, you are on to a winner. I am very pro carbs, but they should only form about one-quarter of your plate, especially in the evening.
6, Choose cruciferous vegetables (eg broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts). A study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention illustrated that the glucosinolates found so prolifically in cruciferous veg are protective against both HCAs and PAHs. Try a broccoli slaw or the Asian confetti salad (made with red cabbage) recipe below.
7, And finally, clean that grill! A mega pain I know, especially if you only get round to it the morning after. However, cleaning the grill reduces the amount of burnt char you eat. Char intake is linked to premature ageing as well as carcinogen formation, so it’s a double whammy!
Asian Confetti Salad: Serves 4-6
• 2 tbs sesame seeds
• ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
• 2 tsp sesame oil
• 2 tsp lime juice
• 1 tbs honey (or agave)
• 1 ½ tbs peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 medium carrots, shredded
• ½ small head red cabbage, cored, cut crosswise, sliced into very narrow ribbons and then separated
• 1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded, cut lengthwise and then sliced into the thinnest strips possible
• 1 red pepper, prepared as the yellow pepper
• ½ medium sweet white onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
• ½ cup (packed) fresh cilantro, chopped
1, Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over a medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
2, In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, lime juice, honey, ginger and cayenne. Set aside.
3, In a large bowl combine the carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, onion and cilantro. Toss thoroughly to mix well.
4, Add the dressing, then toss again, until evenly coated.
5, Garnish with the sesame seeds and serve.
• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda