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  • Writer's pictureCrabtree Nutrition

How to BBQ!

Who doesn’t love a BBQ?

This amazing summer weather has got many of us cooking outdoors as often as we can.  For me there has always been something quite magical about a barbecue.  At one point I used to compete with friends about who could open the season earliest – and as a result I have barbecued on chilly March nights.

On my nutrition journey it came as a huge disappointment to discover that that babecueing can be quite an unhealthy way of eating as a result of the carcinogenic compounds that are created in the process of cooking.  When foods are grilled at high temperatures  the proteins in red meat, poultry and fish can be converted into Heterocyclic Amines (HCA’s) and the cooking method is associated with the formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) which are associated with several cancers including colon, breast and stomach.

My love of the barbecue sent me on a mission to find out how to minimise these risks – and its surprisingly simple to reduce your exposure to these compounds,  plus you get the added bonus of including more foods which are flavoursome and delicious to your meal.  Here are my barbecueing tips:

Marinate meats in herbs and spices helps to reduce the formation of HCA’s. The antioxidants in rosemary and thyme from a marinade are thought to be particularly beneficial but garlic, ginger, turmeric, fruit pulp can also be helpful.  Try marinades such as lemon juice, olive oil and rosemary or lime juice, olive oil, garlic and thyme.

Use lean meat. When fat drips down into the coals it generates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which gets deposited on foods.  Leaner cuts of meat minimise this.

Don’t overcook : The more well-done the meat is, the higher concentration of carcinogenic HCA’s can form, so rare, medium-rare, or medium are healthier choices than well-done. The use of marinades and meat tenderizers can help to prevent over cooking. Cutting meats into smaller pieces shortens cooking time.

Precook :This is especially useful for meats that have bone in them like chicken drumsticks thighs etc. Half cooking the meat in the oven and then popping on the bbq will greatly minimize formation of HCA’s since less cooking time is required. This will also ensure evenly cooked meats.

Barbecue fruits and veggies : These will give you a nice dose of fibre and protective antioxidants to balance the meat  and you don’t need to overcook them. I love barbecued kebabs of tomato, onion, courgette & mushrooms or including barbecued asparagus as sides

NIH (2017) Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk  Accessed: 290618.
Schor J (2010)Top of Form  Marinades Reduce Heterocyclic Amines from Primitive Food Preparation Techniques. Natural Medicine Journal 2:7.
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