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Healthy in the kitchen, grilling, tips and warnings

Healthy in the kitchen, grilling, tips and warnings

August 23, 2020
The grill is a cheerful way to prepare food, especially when in company. However, cooking on the grill can change foods causing carcinogens to form. So let's try to understand how it is possible to reduce the formation of these substances and make grilling healthier
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A barbecue in the garden or on the terrace and it is immediately summer and lightheartedness. However, care should be taken when grilling foods, especially if you are interested in eating a healthy diet. Grilling, in fact, could modify the foods we are cooking by increasing the amount of toxic substances. So let's try to understand what are the risks of the grill and what can be done to not give up a barbecue but with an eye on health.

Grilling, the risks

Grilling is associated with the production, in food, of substances that can induce cell degeneration and therefore tumors (Joshi et al, Cancer Med, 2015). When grilling, in fact, mainly two carcinogenic substances can develop in the food, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (NIH, National Cancer Institute). Heterocyclic amines are formed when the proteins in meat, poultry and fish are exposed to high temperatures, such as when grilling. Hydrocarbons, on the other hand, are released in the form of fumes when the fat and juices of the food come into contact with the heat source of the grill. These fumes can reach the foods on the grill and deposit hydrocarbons on the surface of the food, or people who are close to the grill can be exposed to these carcinogenic substances (Chen-Chou Wu et al, Environ Sci Technol, 2015). Not only meat and fish, however, grilling also reduces the quantities of some antioxidant substances contained in vegetables, such as luteolin and carotenoids in peppers (Durucasu et al, Pak J Biol Sci, 2007). Therefore, grilling is a cooking method to be reserved only for special occasions and should not become the norm. However, even in these cases there are small tricks that can make grilling less dangerous for your health and a bit healthier.

Grilling, here are some tips

The Harvard Medical School University in its blog offers advice and recommendations to follow when grilling. First, it is good to remove the visible fat that burns easily, as well as the skin of the chicken, which should be removed. A trick is then to soak the food in a marinade before cooking on the grill. As scientific studies have shown, in fact, a marinade based on water, oil, vinegar and aromatic herbs, such as rosemary rich in rosmarinic acid or sage that contains carnosol, is able to reduce the release of heterocyclic amines and to protect the food from fumes that could bring carcinogenic substances onto the food (Smith et al, J Food Sci, 2008). Another trick is to reduce the cooking time, for this reason it is good to avoid cooking frozen food and in any case never overcook. Not only that, it is also good to make sure that the food is at least 15 centimeters away from the heat source of the grill. Finally, it can be useful, to reduce the amount of meat cooked on the grill, to prepare colorful skewers with pieces of vegetables, such as onions, peppers, but also fruit, such as pineapple, mango or papaya. In addition, the skewers also have the advantage that the pieces, whether of vegetables, meat or fish, are small and cook earlier. In this way cooking times are reduced.

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