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Healthy Grilling – Prevent Carcinogens, Reduce Calories, Keep Fit


Summer is in full bloom and all across America grills are fired up. It’s now mid-July and the good times are officially rolling. But as we prep and marinate our finest cuts of meat, let us also ruminate on our health choices and their consequences.

According to a Milken Institute report, “lower obesity rates alone could produce productivity gains of $254 billion and avoid $60 billion in treatment expenditures per year.”

Of course, the grill is not solely responsible for high obesity rates in America nor the hefty price tag that comes with them. Healthier grilling practices will not by themselves eradicate diabetes, cancer, or other health events that put a burden on our bodies and healthcare costs. But every step, no matter how small, can help.

Population Health Management (PHM) in its most literal interpretation is the management of a population’s health. If America is to significantly improve the health of its communities, a little buy-in from everyone is warranted; and what better place to increase productivity gains and lower healthcare costs than in our own back yards? After all, Population Health Management (PHM) should be a communal effort.

The goal of this article is to assist in that PHM effort by sharing helpful grilling health tips that reduce calories and increase nutritional intake without compromising taste. Below are a few options, and points to consider for your grilling extravaganza this summer.

Fruits and vegetables

Let’s get this one out of the way early. Fruits and vegetables are not necessarily everyone’s most popular grilling items and are often perceived as unappealing substitutes for meat. However! You can kill two birds with one stone here: lower calorie intake and avoid heterocyclic amines (HCA) – one of two harmful cancer-causing substances produced in the meat grilling process. The other carcinogen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), is produced when sizzling fat drips into smoke that then permeates the meat. Tragic stuff, indeed.

Side note: Consider substituting bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers for pineapple or portabella mushrooms, both of which are great to cook on the grill, have low calorie count and do not produce carcinogens.  

Microwave It:

Although it’s almost counter-intuitive, microwaving your meat comes with a health benefit. 

Per a National Cancer Institute (NCI) report, “studies have shown that microwaving meat prior to cooking helps to decrease mutagens by removing the precursors. Meats that were microwaved for 2 minutes prior to cooking had a 90-percent decrease in HCA content.”

If you go this route, make sure to use a container and to throw out the juice afterwards. It is now a carcinogen cesspool. 

Side note: Microwave radiation does not ionize human tissue, and therefore is not cancerous. 

Doneness:

If you don’t like your steak bloody, I feel for you. And not only because you consistently miss out on the juicy tender perfection that is medium-rare prime rib, but because well-done and medium-well done meats are associated to higher levels of carcinogen consumption. In fact, NCI research indicates that “those who [eat] their beef medium-well or well-done [have] more than three times the risk of stomach cancer than those who [eat] their beef rare or medium-rare.”

Temperature:

Take this one with a grain of salt. Temperature is a key contributor to the formation of HCAs. Grilling, frying, broiling and barbecuing all require high temperatures. C’est la vie.

For healthier eating, consider slow cooking, or roasting.

Marinade:

Thankfully we are not alone in the fight against carcinogens of the grill. Marinade is the secret weapon.

“Commonly available spice-containing marinades can be effective inhibitors of HCA formation and provide reduced exposure to some of the carcinogens formed during grilling.”

According to a study by The National Center for Biotechnology Innovation, the marinades which significantly decreased HCAs had high levels of Carnosol and Rosmarinus acid.

Side note: Avoid marinades high in sugar, such as BBQ sauce. Preferably use a vinegar-based sauce.

America has accomplished many amazing feats and has risen to greatness against overwhelming odds. Improving our collective wellbeing is an arduous task full of pitfalls and obstacles but we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to properly manage our health.

Please seriously consider putting some of these health tips to use and may you have a wonderful summer full of memories and good times.

    

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