Is grilling a healthy alternative?

This time of year there is something absolutely yummy about food fresh off the grill – the aroma – the taste.  It makes my mouth water.  Whether your preference is grilled meats, grilled veggies, or grilled fruit, food just tastes better when it’s prepared on the grill.  Plus, who wants to be stuck inside cooking while everyone else is outside enjoying the summer? 

But is grilling as healthy - or healthier - than other cooking methods? 

In some respects, grilling is definitely healthier.  Since you don’t need to add any oil or fats when cooking on the grill, you avoid soaking up fat into the foods.  Plus fat drips off grilled meat, rather than going back into it.  Also, valuable nutrients are retained in grilled food that would be lost in the water if boiled.   Finally, grilling adds flavor to food without adding fat or salt or any unhealthy additives.

However, there is one thing you do need to be aware of – research has shown that cooking meats at very high temperatures can cause a higher risk for cancer. According to an article by Rebecca Viksnins Snowden on the American Cancer Society’s website, “…cooking meats at very high temperatures creates chemicals (heterocyclic amines, or HAs) that might increase cancer risk. Heterocyclic amines (HAs) are created by the burning of amino acids and other substances in meats cooked at particularly high temperatures and that are particularly well-done.”  Snowden continues, “HAs turn up in grilled and barbecued meat as well as broiled and pan-fried meat.”

So if you want to take advantage of the health benefits and avoid the potential health risk of grilling, you can either grill your food at a lower temperature or grill just fruits and vegetables, which don’t create the harmful chemicals meat does.  If you can’t resist a grilled steak, here are some tips from Snowden to keep it healthier:

·         Choose lean cuts of meat and trim any excess fat. Fat dripping onto hot coals causes smoke that contains potential carcinogens. Less fat means less smoke.

·         Line the grill with foil and poke small holes in it so the fat can still drip off, but the amount of smoke coming back onto the meat is lower.

·         Avoid charring meat or eating parts that are especially burned and black – they have the highest concentrations of HAs.

Grilling, like any cooking method, is only as healthy as the food you begin with, so choose wisely.  And if you add unhealthy marinades or condiments, you counter-act the benefits of grilling.  With a little thought, you and your family can enjoy healthy and tasty meals fresh off the grill.   

A Recipe for the Grill
Lemon, Rosemary & Balsamic Chicken Thighs
Yield 2- 4 servings

8 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp Wildtree Lemon  Rosemary Blend or Lemon Pepper
¼ cup Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed oil
½ tsp Wildtree RancherSteak Rub
2 Tbsp lemon zest
½ Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Remove excessive fat from chicken and wash with salt water then drain.
Combine all ingredients in plastic bag and marinate for 1 – 2 hours. 

Grilling Instructions
Preheat grill to medium.   Cook chicken on the skin side for 10 to 12 minutes and then turn over and cook for the same amount of time - cooked through (internal temp at 160 degrees). If there are flare-ups, move the chicken out of the way so there is no sooty film on the chicken.  Baste any leftover lemon balsamic mix once the chicken has turned over.   The chicken is done when the juices run clear when the pricked at the thickest part of the thigh.
Wildtree products are All natural, preservative free, no dyes and low in sodium and sugar.