by Tracey Shaffer, RDN, LD
Grilled foods can be a very healthy choice, but you may have heard that grilled foods may increase the risk of cancer. So what are the facts? Are grilled foods healthy or not?
Grilling over high heat releases fat from cooking meat. While this way of cooking can be very heart healthy due to the release of these fats from meat, according to the National Cancer Institute some potentially harmful chemicals can form when fat burns over an open flame.
Other chemicals form when high heat causes a chemical reaction in the cooking meat. Animals exposed to very high levels of these harmful chemicals, called carcinogens, may develop cancer. The jury is still out on whether these carcinogens affect humans, but there are some limited scientific studies suggesting that high consumption of well-done, fried, and barbecued meats is associated with various types of cancer.
Don’t let these studies scare you away from grilling. There are some general guidelines to make grilling safer. Here are some tips:
Clean the grill before cooking! The leftover char from that last cookout contains the chemicals we are trying to avoid.
Avoid direct exposure of meat to open flame and avoid prolonged cooking times.
Cook your meat thoroughly, but don’t overcook it – use a thermometer to achieve the proper internal temperature.
Flip meat frequently as it cooks. This reduces the amount of harmful chemicals produced during cooking.
Cook lean meats. Remove skin and visible fat before grilling and choose leaner cuts to reduce the amount of fat that releases from the meat.
Remove heavily charred or burned crust from the meat before consuming.
Try grilled vegetables and fruits instead of meat. Vegetables and fruits are not only tasty when grilled, they contain little to no cancer-causing chemicals
Grilled meats can be healthy and delicious. By following the tips above you will avoid any potentially dangerous chemicals and enjoy your outdoor summer meals.
Try this delicious recipe for your summer outings: