Your summer BBQ survival guide

Summertime is finally in full swing… which means we’ll be dedicating the next few weeks to helping you navigate another barbecue and beach season with your health intact and we can’t think of a better place to start than your own backyard.


Nothing says summer quite like a smoking grill. But those burgers, dogs, chicken wings, and steaks bring more than just flame-cooked flavor. They can also pack your plate with a hearty side of carcinogens.


Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are two chemical byproducts you’ll find hiding behind all that smoky chargrilled flavor.


HCAs form when the proteins in muscle meat react to high, hot temperatures. Meanwhile, PAHs arise primarily from the fat and juices that drip into the fire and create smoke. And at the risk of raining on your BBQ, laboratory research has linked both compounds to a long list of cancers—including prostate cancer.


Does this mean that delicious picnic plate is going to kill you? Of course not. With a few simple strategies, you can have your barbecue and eat it too…    


Safer grilling in five simple steps


Let’s start with the obvious: If you really want to cut the risks to your health, consider taking meat off the menu entirely. Grilled veggies like portabella mushrooms, squash, peppers, and onions still make a perfectly satisfying meal—without any HCAs or PAHs.


But if the meat must stay, at least opt for leaner cuts. (Lower fat meats mean less dripping and fewer PAH’s.) And remember, on or off the grill, grass-fed, organic, and pasture-raised animal products are always going to be cleaner and more nutritious options. (But do yourself a favor and skip the risky processed meats like sausages and hot dogs.)


Believe it or not, marinades also make a surprising difference. In fact, research shows that they can cut grilling carcinogens by more than 90 percent. (Stick with homemade preparations using healthy oils, vinegar or lemon juice, and antioxidant-rich herbs like rosemary, tarragon, and sage.)  


And while you’re at it, be sure to watch your times and temperatures, too. Consider pre-cooking your meats in an oven and saving the grill for a quick final shot of flavor. Or cooking on a plank, away from direct flames.  


Last but not least, keep your grill clean. Get rid of any old char on the grates with a vigorous brush before you start cooking.


Until next time,


The XY Wellness Team



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