Whew! I returned back from my cold & rainy European travels to burning hot Los Angeles. The only good thing about the rising temperatures is that my kids actually crawl out of bed before noon because they are so desperate to get into the pool!
I actually love this kind of weather. It feels like the perfect excuse to take my computer poolside to work, try out some fun new watermelon juices and have long, leisurely dinners outside with my family once the sun has cooled down a little bit.
I can only serve so many “salads for dinner” before my kids start wondering when we can fire up the grill. Yikes. I love a good BBQ but there are lots of worrisome factors to grilling. There are a lot of health-related risks with charbroiling and gas grilling foods. When you cook food this way, the formation of cancer-causing carcinogen chemicals called heterocylic amines (HAs). So yes, even if you are taking the healthy road and grilling veggies instead of hot dogs, you could still be at risk.
But don’t panic, I promise I am not here to crush all your summer dreams! There are ways for you to avoid these deadly HAs. I recommend following these guidelines to keep your BBQ-ing worry free all summer long:
1. Pick your grilling items wisely. The creation of HA relies on foods with amino acids from protein and creatine and/or creatinine. These two substances are very common in fish and animal proteins, but much less common in plant foods. If you’re craving that chargrilled taste, I recommend choosing vegetables and fruits first.
2. Place the food on an area of the grill where it will not be exposed to a direct flame & resist the urge to blast the temperature. HAs form most easily at high temperatures and when the food is closest to the heat source. At temperatures above 400°F, the formation of HAs can increase by 700%-1000%!
3. Don’t eat food that gets blackened or burnt. My fiance, who is a “well-done” guy won’t love this news, but HA formation increase the longer the food is exposed to heat and blackened or burnt food means direct contact to these chemicals. For example, when a burger is grilled for 10 minutes, rather than six minutes, the HA levels increase by 30%.
4. Marinate your food in antioxidant foods that may reduce HA levels, and hey- they will add a lot of taste, too! Try rosemary, citru fruits and green tea.
5. Be aware of the oil you are using on your foods. It’s important to use oils with a high smoke point to help lower the extent of oxidative damage to the oil itself. Click here for a chart on smoke points that will lead you to ones that can handle the highest heat. I love avocado and safflower oil, and they are the only ones I would use on the grill.
6. Keep your grill clean. Regularly scrubbing with a brush before and after grilling food keeps the buildup of carcinogens left on grill crates to a minimum. Plus, a clean grill makes your food taste better, too
7. Avoid sugary, processed condiments and stay away from the potato chips and the dessert table. Ok, this has nothing to do with the HAs, but those are still some health-threatening BBQ items!
Most importantly, enjoy these summer days. They are meant to be savored and enjoyed with people you love. For many, chemical-free years to come 🙂