I think I can speak for all in saying “Yay to summer finally arriving”, and it has been HOT!! There is nothing better than good old vitamin D, sun-kissed skin, the laughter of kids playing outside… and of course a yummy BBQ with loved ones. Even me, who does not eat red meat, LOVES the smell of hamburgers on the grill on a nice summer night. And although I might night divulge in red meat, I will absolutely throw fish, chicken, veggies, and even fruit on the grill. But as we start heating up the grills this summer there are some very important facts to know and take into consideration.
Just like we don’t like to age… AGEs are also not so great.
Advanced glycation end products, also known as AGEs come from two sources: certain foods and their preparation and our very own bodies producing them. A small amount has its benefits and is part of the normal metabolic process. However, in high amounts these little buggers are known to increase inflammation in the body significantly and can lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, etc. Basically any inflammatory disease and condition can be caused or made worse by them. And, they can in fact increase wrinkles and over all aging!!! Our bodies also over produce AGEs when our sugars spike up and stay elevated for long periods of time (commonly seen in uncontrolled diabetes). Highest food sources with AGEs are beef, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs (hence one reason for the high cholesterol thing- but the yolk has nothing to do with it so please eat them!). Frying and grilling foods has a huge impact on AGEs. French fries have 90 times the amount as compared to baked potatoes; eggs when fried too long yield 50 time more than boiled eggs; and meats and chickens increase by 10 fold.
HCAs and PAHs aren’t so great either…
Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbons are not our friends either. They are found in high temperature and well done beef, pork, fish and chicken as well. These ones are linked to DNA damage and therefore may increase risks of certain cancers. Studies are showing anything above 300F increases HCAs and PAHs in foods. However, the higher the temperature, the longer it is cooked, and the more char you are getting- the higher these inflammatory agents go up. Not to mention, PAHs are found to be higher in smoked meats and both are higher in processed meats and foods.
Bummer News for Sure…
Although grilling may be a “low fat method to cooking” and appear to be healthier, when grilling at high temperatures and using more processed meats it can have some serious health implications. But no worries, there is still hope for your outdoor BBQ this summer and ways to enjoy foods you love and minimize the harmful effects.
Tips to Enjoy Your BBQ Season
- Avoid overcooking meats. Try to aim for medium or lower. Well done meat has 3.5 times as many HCAs the medium-rare.
- Whenever grilling, marinated meats will help decrease the AGEs by 50%. Lemon, vinegar, and believe it or not honey are the best options to decrease inflammatory agents.
- Cook for shorter time.
- Make sure your grill is clean.
- Continuously turn over meats while cooking.
- Remove the char (I know, I know I won’t do this one either). Or, limit charred and blackened foods to occasional.
- The better the quality of the meat and especially the less processed they are, the less inflammatory agents they will have.
- Add a green vegetable into the mix. It helps reduce the oxidative stress caused by the grilled meats.
- Herbs and spices: rosemary lowers HCAs by 90% (and can destroy E. coli), basil, thyme, sage, and oregano also fall in same category; turmeric by 40%, onion powder by 94%, and fresh garlic by 70%.
- Overall up the fruit and veggies with the meals to assist in reducing inflammation.
Remember with diseases and overall health there are many contributors that can have a negative impact. Everything can be balanced out to minimize risks without feeling like you are sacrificing the things and food you love. So please do not throw away your BBQs and the memories that go along with it. For ideas on marinades, I provided a few below that I often use. Ratios vary on taste preference and amount you are cooking. I tend to do about 60-70% oil to 30-40% acid ratio and spice and season to taste.
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves (minced), rosemary, salt & pepper
Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves (minced), parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
Sesame or grapeseed oil, amino acids (soy sauce), splash of apple cider vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, garlic cloves (minced), honey, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
** I would love to hear some of your favorite marinades! Please feel free to comment below. **
Happy summer & BBQ season! Remember, with anything in health- it is all about balance !! <3
Rachel Albaum RDN, CDN CDE, RYT, CLT, IFNCP
Rachel is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Integrative Nutritionist. She is owner of Inner Compass Nutrition. Rachel is passionate about nutrition and helping others live happier and healthier lives. Visit her website for more information, blogs, and recipes. https://rachelalbaumnutrition.com/