Safe grilling tips for you and your family
Avoid oxidative stress and free radical damage with a safe and healthy cookout!
One of the best aspects of summer is having family and friends over to enjoy food fresh from the grill.
While grilling fish, meats, and vegetables can provide your guests with a flavorful, healthy meal, there are potential health risks involved. Besides the potential for food-borne illness, grilling produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
AGEs are chemical compounds formed during cooking of food by a reaction between sugar and a protein during cooking methods like grilling, frying, and toasting.
AGEs appear to promote inflammation and insulin resistance, and studies show AGEs may also accelerate the aging process. In a study of elderly individuals, dietary intake of AGEs was also associated with a faster rate of cognitive decline.
When AGEs form, they produce free radicals, which accumulate over time, leading to oxidative stress. Free radicals cause cells to break down and as we age, we lose our ability to fight their effects. Oxidative stress builds up, damaging DNA and other cells, causing signs of aging and chronic diseases. By increasing AGE exposure through the diet, we are contributing to oxidative stress and inflammation. These detrimental processes lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, atherosclerosis, and arthritis.
High fat and high protein foods have the highests AGE content. High carbohydrate foods contain fewer AGEs, with the exception of processed cereals and snack foods due to their high heating temperatures during processing.
One way to reduce AGEs is to cook at lower temperatures in the presence of water instead of oil or fats. Instead of frying and broiling, try stewing, poaching, and boiling your protein sources. One way to combat free radical damage is to consume antioxidant rich foods. Antioxidants help defend our cells from damage caused by oxidative stress. They are naturally produced in the body and also found in foods such as berries, leafy greens, nuts, beans, and even dark chocolate!
Regularly consuming antioxidant-rich foods may help reduce the formation of AGEs and free radicals.
6 ways to protect your guests from foodborne illness and reduce AGE formation.
#1 Clean your grill. Use a wire brush to clean your grill before (or after) each use. This will keep char from building up on the grill and transferring to your food.
#2 Practice food safety. When grilling meat, chicken, or seafood, be sure to keep on a separate plate away from other food. Once ready to eat, use a clean plate to serve rather than the plate where the raw food was kept. Be sure to clean grill
utensils, such as tongs, between putting raw food on the grill and removing it. This will reduce the risk of cross- contamination which can lead to food poisoning.
#3 Check the temperature. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of grilled meat, poultry, and seafood. Consuming cooked foods at the proper temperature cuts down on the risk of foodborne illness.
#4 Experiment with fruits and veggies.
Grilling fruits and vegetables is a great way to enhance their flavor. Fruits like peaches, pineapple, melons, bananas, and tomatoes are easy to grill and are the perfect addition to a burger or salad. Vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, onion, peppers, asparagus, and mushrooms can be used in place of a meat burger or as a side dish. Carbohydrate rich foods such as these contain little AGEs, even after grilling. They are also full of antioxidants, which help reduce oxidative damage caused by AGEs.
#5 Marinade before grilling. Marinating foods before grilling, especially meats, poultry, and seafood, will help reduce the formation of potential carcinogens. Using acidic ingredients in marinades such as lemon juice or vinegar helps to reduce the formation of AGEs. Marinate foods for at least one hour prior to grilling.
#6 Go low and slow. Cooking at low to medium temperatures helps reduce AGE formation. Lower temperatures will help keep moisture in the food, providing a juicier burger, and further reducing AGE exposure.
Diet is the number one contributor to the formation of AGEs.
In addition to the steps above, other ways to reduce AGEs include avoiding processed foods, such as chips and cookies. Try substituting crunchy veggie sticks and dip in place of chips at your next gathering. Minimize full fat dairy products and meats high in fat, particularly red meat. Choose leaner options like chicken or fish (or a portobello burger!). AGEs are found in high fat spreads such as butter, margarine, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. Stick to ketchup, mustard, hummus, or salsa as condiments.
Following the tips detailed above will ensure your guests leave with nothing more than a full stomach and great memories!
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To your good health,