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Healthy Grilling 101

Healthy Grilling 101

With the warm weather now in full swing many people are starting to fire up their barbeques. As we move into the summer months, our diets also shift to outdoor friendly foods and patio cuisine. Unfortunately this often means more grilled red meat, cold treats and alcoholic beverages. A diet high in red meat has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Most animal products increase the acidic load in the body and promote inflammation if eaten regularly. Long term acidity and inflammation can promote cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis and other diseases. Additionally, the process of barbequing and charring can cause the formation of potentially cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

If you still want to eat healthy and enjoy classic summer foods this article will help you make the best food choices while still partaking in the summer tradition of backyard and cottage barbequing.

The following are 5 recommendations to cut down on the potentially harmful aspects of barbequing and increase the health value of your grilling food choices.

1) Don’t Over Cook Your Meat: Over cooking your food on the BBQ (especially meats) promotes the formation of HCAs and PAHs that are potentially harmful. The charbroiled flavor is tempting but is dangerous for your health.

2) Pre-cook Your Meats: This actually is a tip from top chefs to make your meat more tender. Pre-cooking (boiling or baking) reduces the time spent on the grill and avoids the use of high heat.

3) Cook on Low Heat: Just like indoor frying and sautéing, using high heat increases damage to the food and increases HCA and PAH formation. Try pre-cooking your meat or cooking it on low for longer. Meat cooked on low heat is also more tender and juicy.

4) Choose Organic Meat: Even though organic meat is generally more expensive it is free from harmful antibiotic residues and hormones. These compounds can wreck havoc on your internal hormonal balance and further promote inflammation. The added bonus is that organic meat usually is much more tender and flavourful since the animals are fed with grass and not corn.

5) Marinate Your Meats: Using simple spices, olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar not only improves tenderness and flavour but also can help prevent the formation of harmful compounds produced during the grilling process. See Dr Hrkal’s famous marinade recipe below.

6) Make Healthy Substitutions: Hamburgers, hotdogs and steaks are the most common grilling foods but they are not the only options. Healthier choices are organic chicken, wild salmon, and lamb. They are generally lower in saturated fat and contain healthier types of fats. Veggie burgers are also another meat-free option however beware of hidden ingredients such as wheat, yeast extract and fillers.

7) Add Colour: Meat is not the only thing that can be grilled. Vegetables are great when done on the barbeque and they pack an antioxidant punch to offset the meat. Be sure to glaze them with olive oil and spices and not to over cook them. They should still be crispy and fresh on the inside. Some favourites are zucchini, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and onions.

Despite the potential health hazards of barbequing I encourage you to still be involved in your summer traditions while still making healthy choices. By making simple changes to your barbeque process and substituting for healthy options you can still enjoy the fruits of the grill and maintain your commitment to healthy eating.

Bon Appetit and Happy Grilling!

Dr. Hrkal’s famous BBQ meat marinade

1 tsp sesame seed oil
2 tbsp organic soy sauce
1 bottle of your favourite dark beer
2 tbsp ground pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1tbsp honey (optional)
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp coarse sea salt

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together and place in a non-reactive (glass) dish just big enough for the meat.
Pour in the marinade and be sure to turn the meat to ensure both sides are covered.
Allow to marinade overnight (or at least 6 hours)

By: Dr. Paul Hrkal, ND

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