Photo: Russ Sedin
Get It On the Grill
Firing up the grill is a culinary act that declares summer is here. Done right, grilling offers a virtually mess-free, healthful and convenient way to get dinner on the table, plus it provides the added benefit of encouraging the long lazy dinners around the patio table as the sun goes down.
Here are health-minded tips to ensure your grilling is delicious and nutritious:
Watch the Char: The black marks on your grilled food can be problematic. The American Institute for Cancer Research cites studies that indicate “when any kind of meat, poultry or fish is cooked at high temperatures, especially when well-done or charred, cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form. These substances can theoretically damage DNA in ways that make cancer more likely.” Grilling at lower heats, and using grass fed, lean cuts of organic meat can help reduce your exposure.
When exposed to very high temperatures, vegetables and other plants like grains that contain sugars can produce acrylamide — a substance extensively studied for its toxic, neurological effects and cancer causing properties. Avoid these potential compounds by grilling vegetables over lower heat and turning them often.
Watch Your Oils: Some cooking oils are highly unstable and heating them beyond their smoke point creates toxicity and rancidity that has been shown to create free-radical damage to your cells. While we often see chefs on cooking shows using olive oil on the barbecue, this oil has a very low smoke point and should only be
used when cooking medium to medium-low heat. Grape seed and coconut oil are better suited to withstand the higher heats of grilling.
Watch Your Temperature: Grills have the potential to heat up very quickly. When preheating, keep the burners on medium to medium-low and watch the thermometer as you grill. Be aware of where hot spots are on your grill and adjust the burners to maintain an even heat.
Get creative with your grilling! Cooking outside can be a wonderful way to highlight amazing fresh flavours of vegetables.
Hearty veg such as cauliflower, Portobello mushrooms, peppers and zucchini all do well on the grill and look gorgeous piled on large platters for a truly delicious and nutritious way to spend a summer night on the patio.
Barb Thomas, CHN, is a holistic nutritionist and culinary educator at love2eat in Calgary, Alta.