Is it Healthy to Eat Grilled Foods?

Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook and there are some important health benefits to grilling your food versus cooking it in the oven or on top of the stove.

Although it is considered a healthful choice but at the same time, you may have heard that grilled foods increase the risk for cancer.

Here are common reasons why grilling food can be a better option and how to make grilling safer.

Healthy choice

The main advantage of grilling food is that it is healthier as compared to other methods used to prepare meat.

Just think about cooking a burger in a pan on the stove versus on the grill. The fat simply burns off when you cook the meat on the grill.

However, when using a pan, there is nowhere for the fat to go. Therefore, it pools and gets reabsorbed by the meat eventually.

Saves energy cost

Grilling can also help minimize energy costs in your home.

Heat from your stove or oven further affects air conditioning during summer. Grilling outside can therefore improve air circulation, saving on your bills.

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Preserves nutrients

Most people are not aware that more minerals and vitamins are retained by vegetables when they are grilled.

You can add onions, peppers, sweet corns or zucchinis on your grill, or try and make vegetables kebabs.

Nutrient rich meats

Vegetables on the grill aren’t the only thing that increases in nutrition when cooked on the grill.

Meat cooked on the grill retains more of its riboflavin and thiamine. Thiamine and riboflavin are B vitamins that help the body turn food into fuel for more energy.

Meat or seafood grilled over a gas flame that is fully cooked but not charred is a perfect addition to a healthy diet.

No Butter in grilling

Meats cooked over an open flame retain their moisture better than those cooked in other ways.

This means your grill master is less likely to add more butter while cooking to keep meats moist.

Less butter on the meat means less fat on your plate.

Grilled food is thought of as a healthy food, especially because grilled meat has less fat but some would argue that there are chemicals in the smoke that are carcinogenic, while health authorities say the amounts are few.

There are however general guidelines to make grilling safer. The type of meat or food, the cooking time, the cooking temperature, and the cooking method influences the formation of cancer causing chemicals.

There are some limited scientific studies suggesting that high consumption of  barbecued meats is associated with various types of cancer but with that in mind, here are some tips:

  • Clean the grill before cooking! The leftover char from that last cookout contains the chemicals we are trying to avoid.
  • Cook lean meats. Remove skin and visible fat before grilling. The more fat on the meat, the more fat there is to drip on coals or open flame resulting in carcinogen production.
  • Remove heavily charred or burned crust from the meat before eating.
  • Cook your meat thoroughly, but don’t overcook it. Overcooking and prolonged exposure to high temperatures increases the amount of carcinogens in the meat.

The bottom line is that grilled foods are tasty, lower in fat and calories, but they may contribute to cancer risk. Keep this in perspective. If you enjoy grilled meats, don’t stop grilling. But, grill more intelligently by using some of the tips above!

References:

National Cancer Institute “Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk”: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cooked-meats

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Barbecue_Food_Safety.pdf

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