Warm weather means all kinds of things, including…fire up that grill! And oh, what delicious grilling options there are.
Though barbecue overall has a pretty bad rep, there are actually some very healthy benefits to grilling. But it’s all about the choices and the preparation.
First Is First…
There are a few health rules that you should always follow when you grill, such as:
Don’t burn your food. According to Health.com, you shouldn’t char your food. Why? Two compounds found in charred and overcooked meats, heterocyclic amine (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are known carcinogens. One study that found that people who consumed well done meats regularly were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Use a low-fat marinade. Some research suggests that marinating meat (even briefly) significantly reduces the formation of HCAs. Including garlic and onions in the marinade may also help reduce HCA formation on cooked meat.
Keep it lean. Select leaner cuts (and trim any visible fat), to prevent dripping fat from causing flare-ups, which may deposit carcinogens on the meat.
Use foil. Spread aluminum foil on the grill to limit flare-ups. Make small holes in the foil to allow fat from the meat to drain.
Also, to help lower your cancer risks, clean your grill to get rid of preexisting charred food.
Now…here are some of the top healthy benefits of that savory, barbecued goodness:
1. Marinades Can Be Healthy!
According to WebMD, you can add bold flavors to your barbecue to make them taste great…without adding too many calories or too much fat. Some ideas include:
Worcestershire sauce: 2 tablespoons contain 30 calories, 0 grams fat, and 390 milligrams sodium
Chili sauce: 2 tablespoons contain 40 calories, 0 grams fat, and 960 milligrams sodium (depending on brand)
Tomato paste: 2 tablespoons contain 30 calories, 0 grams fat, and 20 milligrams sodium
Molasses: 2 tablespoons contain 120 calories, 0 grams fat, and 40 milligrams sodium
Don’t be afraid of adding a little sugar! Ingredients like brown sugar, honey or molasses can further enhance flavor, and can go well with many different spicier marinades. However, don’t add to much, or else you’ll run the risk of burning your food.
What’s even better is that many marinades have some surprising health benefits all on their own. For example, tomato paste contains lycopene, which is an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth and potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging.
Also, Worcestershire sauce contains vitamin E and B6, which boosts your immune system.
Have you noticed how much better many vegetables seem to taste when they’re grilled?
Marinating vegetables will help them caramelize better when they’re grilled, and it’s the caramelization that brings out the very best flavors. Place vegetables in a marinade for about an hour before putting them on the grill. Or, coat the vegetables with a little olive oil or canola oil.
According to chefs, the trick to grilling vegetables is cutting them into shapes and sizes that cook well on the grill. When you cook them over direct medium heat, turning frequently, they’ll usually be done in 8-10 minutes (sometimes less, depending on the vegetable).
Some of the best vegetables to grill include:
- Red, white, or sweet onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds.
- Corn on the cob
- Mushrooms. Grill portabellas like a burger or them cut into thick slices; grill small mushrooms strung on a skewer or kabob.
- Eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices.
- Zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices.
- Asparagus spears. Just trim off the white end and grill the spears whole.
Like vegetables, grilling brings out the savory goodness of many different meats. And you already know that lean meat is a great source of vital protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that your body uses to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesize new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions.
Here are the healthiest types of meat you should be grilling:
- Chicken (take the skin off…just do it)
- Steak (trim the visible fat)
- Pork tenderloin