Love BBQs? Read This First

I’m sure lots of people will be having barbecues or picnics over the summer.

Did you know that cooking meats at high and dry temperatures (grilling, roasting, baking) that causes charring/burning, increase the formation of carcinogens?

Luckily there are some simple (and delicious) things you can do to reduce, or counteract this effect.

Cook slower, lower, and with moisture

Cooking meat more slowly, with a lower temperature, and with moisture (stewing, poaching, or using a slow cooker) is a healthier option. These cooking methods avoid charring or burning, by keeping the meat from drying out.

Marinate

If we do want to use high & dry cooking, like a summer barbecue for example, a great way to reduce carcinogens, is to marinate the meat for several hours, or overnight. By marinating the meat in a combination of extra virgin olive oil, herbs, spices, lemon juice, salt & pepper, you can have your cake..er, meat, and eat it too! The polyphenols in the oil and spices protect the meat from forming these carcinogens. But it’s still best to avoid charring/burning the meat.

Polyphenols to the rescue!

You can further reduce any negative effects of high and dry cooking, by pairing with foods rich in polyphenols, like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Not only do they make things more colourful, but they are tasty, and refreshing.

For some bonus polyphenols, have some fresh berries, and a few squares of 85%+ dark chocolate as a desert. As a general rule, as the % of cocoa solids in chocolate goes up, the amount of added sugar tends to go down. Higher percentage cocoa solid varieties of dark chocolate can take a bit of getting used to, especially when used to the more sugary kinds of chocolate. However, once used to, you will really appreciate the deep, rich undertones. A small amount can be just enough to satisfy a craving for chocolate. Plus you get all the polyphenols, that actually benefit your longterm health.

It’s not just meat

Cooking sugary or starchy carbohydrates at high and dry temperatures, will have a similar effect as with meat. Think cookies, crisps, crackers, toast. Luckily, like with meat, having them with polyphenol-rich foods you can greatly reduce the negatives.

Pair a sweet treat with an apple, or some fresh berries, sweet spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Pair savoury options with leafy greens like romaine lettuce, babyeaf spinach, radicchio, spring onions, olives, capers, fresh basil, coriander/cilantro, parsley, tarragon, black pepper.

Here are some example recipes that use these kinds of ingredient combinations:

Simple Anti-AGEs Salad

Strawberry Salad

Sweet Potato “Fries”

Balance

So, there you have it. We can still enjoy our favourite foods on occasion. Just balance them out with fruits and veggies, herbs and spices. For the rest of the time, choose preparation methods that avoid the formation of unhealthy substances.

Further reading

Eat The Rainbow

Recipes

Why Moving Our Body Is So Important

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