Is Barbecued Food Healthy?

Barbecued foods, in many instances, is used (or viewed) as the healthier alternative to other ways of cooking meats, in particular. For example, barbecuing is often a preferred option to frying. However, studies are now showing – particularly where meats are concerned – that this may not be the better option after all unless certain precautions are taken.

Is Barbecued Food Healthy: Here’s Why We Think Barbecued Food Is A Healthy Option

barbecued food

Grilling is a favorite Summer pastime for many of us. There is nothing quite like being outdoors and having fun with your nearest and dearest while some hamburgers or chicken kebabs are on the grill. It’s fun, food, and frolic at its best. To top it all off, grilling our meat is healthier than frying it, so all is well with the world – or is it?

We think grilling our meat and food is healthier due largely to the fact that the fat usually falls from the meat unto the coals below, leaving behind the leaner parts of the meat for consumption. However, some studies are showing that in high quantities the opposite can be true. This is because cooked meat produces a group of compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), of which high concentrations have been linked to causing cancer.

Admittedly, the concentrations of HCAs is a cause for concern. It is also true that these levels of concentration can prove to be higher in meat that is barbecued as a result of being cooked for longer and at higher temperatures. The good news is, however, that even at this high concentration of HCAs in barbecued meat, it is not high enough to result in cancer in the body. So, that is good news. Additionally, if one wants to further reduce the concentration of HCAs, then one can pre-cook the meet for two minutes in the microwave and then move it to the barbecue grill to finish and to get the flavor you love, according to one Harvard study [1]. Below, we look at even more ways we can make our barbecue healthier.

How To Make Barbecued Food Even Healthier

Instead of asking if barbecued food is healthy, perhaps the better question is asking, how can we make it better or healthier. After all, even though it is true that barbecuing meats can result in the formation of carcinogens HCA, there are many ways we can combat that and reduce the amount of HCA formed. We mentioned one option already above (pre-cooking your meat in the microwave prior to moving it to the grill. Other options to further reduce the formation of HCA in barbecued meat include:

1. Using a healthy marinade

A study in 2008 showed that marinades are great for helping to decrease the formation of HCA in cooked meat. Importantly, this marinade should be spicy and include key herbs. In addition to adding some pepper (like organic cayenne pepper), adding spices such as thyme, garlic, and sage, can all work well to reduce the amount of total HCAs in cooked meat. Concentrations of rosemary extracts work well too – with studies showing up an up to 90% reduction in some instances.

2. Reduce the grill heat and add alcohol

Given that very high temperatures increase the production of HCAs, reducing said temperatures when grilling can go a long way in reducing the amount of HCAs formed. As a rule of thumb, cooking your meat below 325 degrees Fahrenheit is the way to go. Additionally, adding alcohol to your marinade will help to reduce the formation of HCAs. A University of Porto study showed that allowing beef to marinate in red wine for approximately six hours before taking it to the grill significantly reduced the amount of HCA present. Carcinogens were reduced by up to 40% when compared with beer that was not marinated prior to barbecuing. Similarly, beer is also good for marinating.

Want a barbecue recommendation?  Take a look at these affordable gas grills under $300.

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