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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Mathes


Summer is just around the corner, and the hot weather means time to get outside and get your grilling on!  Grilling can be a healthy cooking method, if you do it right.  The steps below will help your summer barbecue be safe and healthy.

Lose the Fat and Bring Down the Heat!

When grilling proteins choose lean choices, poultry, grass fed beef, fish, etc. for your health, but there is another reason to choose lean proteins.  The fat on meat can drip when the flame hits it (Flare up), causing it to drip on the coals creating smoke containing compounds polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s).  PAH’s considered carcinogenic and have been linked to cancer.  Making sure you choose lean proteins and trim the fat will help you avoid these compounds.  Cooking outside the flame vs. on top of it is also a good method to avoid PAH’s.

Aside from picking healthy lean proteins, your cooking temperature is also important, when temperatures arise and searing occurs on animal proteins, cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) form, increasing the risk of cancer.    Keep your grill temperature low, flip the meat often, and try to avoid crusting.

Grilling starchy foods (potatoes, corn, and butternut, etc. ) at high heat causes a chemical reaction between the sugars and a certain amino acid (asparagine) creating a carcinogen ACRYLAMIDE.  This carcinogenic compound is linked to cancer.  The highest amounts are found in potatoes (French fries and potato chips), grain products or coffee.

SAFETY TIP:  Always use a food thermometer to monitor the cooking process to validate your food is at a safe temperature internally.

Minimize PAH’s, HCAs and Acrylamide


Soak your meat 30 minutes prior to grilling in a marinate containing acidic ingredients like, vinegar, lemon juice, and orange juice.  An acidic environment helps decrease the carcinogenic effect of the PAH’s and HCA’s.  Beer, wine and green tea also seem to have a similar effect.

Vitamin C

Adding fresh fruit and vegetables that contain vitamin C in with your barbecue help decrease the effectiveness of the PAHs and HCAs.  Food sources high in vitamin C:  citrus, red and green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, cranberry juice, Brussels sprouts, orange juice, snow peas, pineapple, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, mango, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, peas, berries, soybeans, watermelon and tomatoes.

Organic Produce on the Grill

Organic produce like fruits and non-starchy vegetables can replace some of your animal proteins.  Try a veggie burger, portabella mushroom, or vegetable and fruit kebobs to create a plant-based barbeque to switch up the traditional barbeque fare.

Alter your cooking method on the grill to avoid Acrylamide

To avoid this compound, steam your potatoes in aluminum foil on the grill, keep your corn in its own husk while you cook it and keep that grill temperature low and slow.

Keep It Clean

Clean the grill, and remove lighter fluid and charcoal substances before and after you grill.  These are harmful substances that you should avoid ingesting.  Throw out leftover marinade and clean your utensils to avoid cross contamination and food illness

Be a healthy griller,  and keep your culinary creations safe and tasty!

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