Summer is the season of outdoor activities, like going to the lake, hiking to a creek, or claiming your spot on the strand for a beach day. It’s also the best time of year to have a backyard cookout and gather around the grill. There’s a communal aspect to cooking over the open flame, even if that flame is from a modern propane grill.
As much fun as grilling is, health experts say that there are many mistakes that people make when doing so. In fact, grilling your food increases your exposure to high levels of cancer-causing compounds. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form in meat muscle tissue during high temperature cooking, for example, grilling. There is strong evidence that high consumption of HCAs increases the risk of colon and stomach cancers. At the same time, HCAs can also damage DNA, and may increase the risk of lung, liver, breast, and prostate cancers.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from HCAs and other carcinogens that come from grilling food. Make sure to avoid these grilling mistakes, some of which are lesser-known, that threaten your health!
You Don’t Clean Your Grill Regularly
When grease, grime, char, and other dirt builds up on your grill grates, you increase the risk of fire while cooking. Additionally, all of that grime can affect the flavor of your food. Don’t be a grill purist and say that, “the grime enhances the flavor,” because it doesn’t. When you regularly clean your grill, you kill off mold and bacteria that may affect your food’s nutrition. Finally, it also reduces the risk of food contamination that can result in sickness. A great way to clean your grill is with an onion or lemon.
You Use Bottled Marinades
It’s hard to resist the marinades that you see in the store. They taste delicious, but bottled marinades are very unhealthy because they are replete with sodium, sugar, fats, preservatives, and other processed ingredients. Make sure that you read the nutritional label and ingredient list on these marinades, as they probably contain problematic ingredients. Thicker marinades, for example, tend to be rich in high-fructose corn syrup, which is more prone to charring. Charring can increase your exposure to carcinogens, so opt for thinner marinades that you make yourself. Many dietitians like to include rosemary in marinades because it is a carcinogen-neutralizing herb.
You Char Your Meat
Sure, char marks are what people want when they grill food, but you don’t want your meat to develop a lot of char on the exterior. Whether you char your fish, poultry, or beef, you allow HCAs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. According to research, these compounds are mutagenic, which means that they can alter your DNA and increase your cancer risk. Most PAHs form when fat and other juices from meat drop onto the open flame, causing the flames to increase in size and shoot chemicals back up onto the meat.
You Opt For Well-Done
There are so many jokes about people who ask for well-done burgers or steaks. Chefs think that it is blasphemy and ruins the meat. As it turns out, people who cook their meat until it is well-done have a 15% greater risk of high blood pressure than people who eat medium or medium-rare meat. Additionally, burning or blackening your meat can increase oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and inflammation in the body. Health experts say that you can lose up to 40% of B vitamins and other minerals by overcooking your meat. Overcooking your vegetables, be it on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove, also leads to nutritional loss.
You Grill Harmful Meat
What do we mean by “harmful meat?” Well, grilling factory-farmed meat is one of the worst grilling mistakes you can make. The reason for this is because drugs and antibiotics are so present in agriculture and turn up non-organic meat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety And Inspection Service, medications like ivermectin, flunixin, penicillin, and ciprofloxacin are at higher levels that violate current regulations. Researchers identified that these medications increase the risk of allergic reactions, kidney damage, and neurological problems. If you grill meat, opt for grass-fed/grass-finished, organic, free-range, or wild-caught options to avoid these chemicals.