Safer, Healthier Grilling
Decades ago, news came out that the nitrites and nitrates added to processed meats such as hot dogs, cold cuts, sausages and bacon generate harmful nitrosamines when cooked. Bad news for hot dog lovers.
Looking for answers, research found that vitamin C in various ascorbate forms helped prevent the formation of nitrosamines in the stomach, rendering nitrates and nitrites less harmful. So, for a couple of decades, along with the ketchup and mustard, I put out a bottle of chewable vitamin C during family barbeques. Further research showed that vitamin E conferred additional benefit.
Everyone can reduce health risk by avoiding foods that contain these chemicals in the first place! You can help your patients by recommending they purchase all natural processed meats (hot dogs and sausages) that contain no added nitrates/nitrites and likewise purchasing all natural condiments, pickles and salad dressings that contain no preservatives. Another alternative is to use vegetable based products such as veggie burgers, veggie dogs, tofu dogs, large portobello mushrooms and veggie sausages, but check the labels to ensure they are nitrate and nitrite free.
So, is grilling safe otherwise? Well, not exactly. The other problem is that hazardous chemicals can be generated during any grilling process even with fresh meats and poultry. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when any muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked at high-temperatures, such as grilling directly over an open flame.
HCAs are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures. PAHs are formed when fat and juices from meat grilled directly over an open fire drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat. HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic and may increase the risk of cancer. The good news, is that research shows that one can help reduce the amount of these chemicals on the meats by using lower heat, and continuously turning or flipping the meat often, which substantially reduces HCA formation compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without frequent flipping. Minimizing the amount of time the food is on the grill, and removing charred portions of the meat (like the fat) can also help substantially.
Living well includes enjoying summer activities with friends and family, so go ahead and enjoy! Just bring your own food, turn down the grill flames, and bring along plenty of vitamin C for everyone!
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