It’s hard to imagine summer time without thoughts of backyard barbecuing. Whether hotdogs or hamburgers, chicken, ribs or steak on the grill, it’s important to understand that there are inherent dangers in barbecuing.
Research confirms that the high heat used in grilling red meat, poultry and fish forms potent carcinogens called HCAs (heterocyclic amines). We’re all familiar with the charring that occurs when we’ve grilled meat to perfection. Unfortunately it’s this very delicious method of rapidly cooking meats that create the problem. The additional bad news is that because these HCAs form throughout the cooked meat, you can’t get rid of them by simply scraping off that delicious tasting crust.
Toxins called Advanced Glycation Ends (AGE) are another cause for concern. These are created when fat plus protein come in contact with high heat. AGE’s are associated with oxidant stress and inflammation, lowering the body’s protective mechanisms that control inflammation. Widespread research has documented how chronic inflammation can trigger a wealth of chronic diseases including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine published their findings and recommendations, urging people to reduce the frequency of grilling when preparing meat.
Before you despair all together and consider putting your grill up for sale on Craig’s list, there are some healthy options for us carnivores. The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii found that using a thin, very liquid marinade for at least 10 minutes prior to cooking, can significantly reduce the HCA’s.
Right now you’re probably thinking about your favorite, commercially prepared thick marinade – the one that you’ve been using for years. Unfortunately, that will have to go. However, there are some delicious alternatives to try. Dr. John Weisburger from the American Health Foundation (himself a serious tea lover) found that by making a strong tea marinade using black or green tea, you could take your grilled meats out of the danger zone by detoxifying HCAs and reducing the overall HCA levels. He advises using 1-2 tea bags, or whole leaf tea, in 1/4 cup of water to make the marinade. The flavor might not be as powerful as traditional, thick, commercial marinades, but you’ll be surprised how flavorful a tea marinade can be.
Dr. Weisburger also advises us to drink tea regularly, especially along with our barbecued meats. Now that’s certainly easy advice to follow.
You’ve probably noticed I haven’t mentioned grilled fruits and vegetables. Here’s some more good news for us lovers of outdoor cooking. As fruits and vegetables don’t contain any creatine, the animal protein needed to make HCAs, they make a great barbecue alternative to meat. You can enjoy those delicious grill marks on your pineapple, portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers and any of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget to chase them down with your favorite iced tea to stay cool and hydrated.