Summer is here! This means that BBQ season has began and for the next three months or so we can eat outside.
Nowadays there is such a huge range of ready-made BBQ food items. Meat in different marinades, fish and seafood kebabs, as well as a wide variety of sauces. All very convenient. But we might be paying a high price for this convenience. Just remember, the less ready-made and processed the food, the better it will be for your health.
Here are some healthy tips that we hope you can easily incorporate into your barbequing to better enjoy summer outdoor dining.
- Do not burn food, especially meat
When we cook meat at a high temperature, one of components in meat called creatine is converted into a substance called heterocyclic amine (HCA). There is scientific evidence that HCA can cause cancer in high concentrations. Those charred black bits around the edges of barbequed meat or fish contains pure HCA. HCA is found in cigarette smoke.
Clean your grill after every use so that no charred bits of food are left for when you next use it. In addition, marinate your food before you cook it. It has been shown that different spices in marinades, such as black pepper, can inhibit the release of HCA by up to 96%. Cook smaller pieces of meat to reduce the cooking time as well as turning them from one side to other more often and cut off burned edges before serving.
- Choose lean meat
Unlike oven grilling, a BBQ heats the meat from below. This means the fat drips onto the hot coals and burns. The smoke from the partly burned fat coats the meat and gives it the smoky taste that we like. This smoke however contains other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). So the less fatty your meat is the less its will be exposed to PAH containing smoke. Fish has very little fat.
- Avoid processed meat products
It is well known that processed meat like sausages and burgers usually contain preservatives called nitrates that clinical studies have linked to colorectal cancer. There is also a direct connection between a diet heavy in processed meat, which normally contains a high amount of sodium, and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and heart attacks. Vary meat as much as possible, eating not only red meat but also lean meat from turkey or chicken. Also go for more fish and seafood or grill extra firm tofu or halloumi cheese.
- Prepare marinades yourself
Ready-made marinades often contain artificial additives, colorants and preservatives. They also contain lots of sugar and salt. It is much better if you can make your own. It is also very quick and easy. For example, Mediterranean style marinades which are full of antioxidants, consist mainly of olive oil, lemon juice and a mix of Mediterranean spices, which you can get in a ready-made dry mix form or make yourself by combining ingredients like rosemary, cumin, coriander, oregano, sea salt and cinnamon.
- Barbeque more vegetables
Grilled vegetables like, aubergine, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and fruits like pineapple, are great with meat, fish or just by themselves. Serve barbequed meat or fish with lots of different salads made with fresh vegetables. The addition of vegetables allows you to better digest meat and to fully absorb its nutrients.
- Don’t start hungry
While you are waiting for barbequed food, enjoy some healthy dips like humus with some chopped fresh vegetables. If you are going to someone else’s house, you can easily have a healthy snack before leaving home. For example, a handful of nuts or an apple. By the time the barbeque is ready you will enjoy smaller portion of barbequed food.
By Irina Schurov