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Popular Forms of Grilling
Legend has it, prehistoric man first learned to eat roasted food by eating the flesh of animals killed in a forest fire.
– Broiling is a form of grilling wherein the source of heat is located above the food.
– Char-grilling is essentially grilling that uses coal or charcoal as a medium of heat to cook food.
– Barbecuing is a socializing trend soon catching up among people as a great idea for a friendly get together. Most of us have been to at least one barbecue evening.
– Other forms include grid-ironing, charcoal kettle-grilling, flat top grilling, stove-top pan grilling and grill-braising. However, scientists have now discovered that grilling your food may be putting you at a major health risk.
Health Risks of Grilling Food
According to research, excessive grilling for long durations at a high heating point changes the chemical makeup of food and develops carcinogens, cancer-causing agents. The formation of two compounds, Hetero-cyclic Amines (HAs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) , leads to development of stomach and colon cancer on consumption of foods that they bind to. It interferes with the DNA structure of your body and stimulate the production of cancer-causing cells.
Dangers of Grilling Meat
When you grill food, the only barrier between the source of heat and food are the grills. Over-heating causes animal fat to melt, drip off your food and melt on to the medium of heat, which is often coal. At a temperature of 400°F, too much heat leads to the transformation of amino acids present in muscle tissues in the meat into HAs and PAHs that vaporize due to the heat. These are one of the most catastrophic carcinogens. As the smoke rises and settles on to the food, these chemicals attach to your food. The brown-black spots are over-grilled parts of your food that contain the most amount of HAs and PAHs. But, the formation of HAs is observed in protein based food like meat. These mutagens provoke cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart condition of tissue inflammation and destruction, which is an aging disorder in reality. However, scientists are still investigating to factually confirm this observation in humans.
As a matter of fact, people who have the highest consumption of grilled meats, also have a higher rate of pancreatic disorder, liver, breast and rectal cancer. Even if you are not eating it, but doing the cooking, the chemicals are present in the fumes and easily enter your respiratory system. But I must also add, that it is only harmful when done for days and not just a few hours. Even though beef is a lot richer in fat content as compared to chicken, deep-fried beef contains much lesser HAs and PAHs as compared to grilled chicken.
Grilling it Safe
You do not have to fear grilling because it is still safe to eat grilled food. After all, it is only a variation of roasting, the first cooking method discovered by man. However, there are some safe grilling techniques that you could practice to avoid the health risks associated with grilling.
– Choose lean and healthy meat cuts for your barbecue sessions. Low fat helps ensure reduced dripping of animal fat – on the coal, thereby, minimizing the development of carcinogens.
– Do not grill meat for long periods.
– Reduce portion size of meat.
– Always clean cooking equipment post-grilling immediately to prevent bacteria from breeding on them.
– Do not consume the over-grilled parts of your food even if it is not meat. HAs form on meat products but PAHs can form on all kinds of food during excessive roasting. Even your vegetarian kebabs and skewers contain the risk.
– If you are using a microwave or oven for grilling, make sure you preheat them well, at least 10-15 minutes to reduce cooking time.
– To grill fish, you can wrap it in an aluminum foil and keep it chemical free.
– Supplement your food with antioxidants by marinating meat with lemon or orange juice, vinegar and red wine. Have a fruits and vegetables salad as a side-dish.
Think about all the greenhouse gases and soot particles that grilling produces. It not just affect your health but it mixes up and stays within the atmospheric layer of the environment. The more your barbecue meat stays in contact with flame and smoke, the more will be the carcinogen content on it. You could use a grilling machine that has a filter to block out smoke and prevent it from coming in contact with your food. If it suits you, you could substitute grilling with frying using avocado and safflower oil as they have a high smoke point. Also, it would be great health etiquette to reduce the portion size of those hamburgers. As the saying goes, “What you eat is what you become!”
Marinating fish, meat and poultry with olive oil adds a healthy and pleasant flavor to the food. Baking usually involves lots of fat. So instead of using butter in baking, you can use olive oil to reduce the quantity of fat. The amount of olive oil used should be about 25% less than the normal quantity of butter.
The extra-virgin grade of olive oil is the expensive one. So you can keep it for salads, dressings and vinaigrette. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils cannot maintain their flavor if subjected to high heat. That is why they are the best for uncooked food.
Foods like vinegar, wine, lemon juice, tomatoes, etc. have a high-acid content. Use of olive oil for cooking with such foods balances the acidity. It is a good practice to do a taste test before you decide on a recipe to be cooked with olive oil. Best results are obtained if you can pair up the taste of the oil with other ingredients in the recipe.
Appetizers with olive oil.
Olive oil can also be used for preparing appetizers. Broiled baguette slices can be rubbed with cut cloves or garlic and then drizzled with a few drops of olive oil. Prepare delicious dips by preparing a mix of white beans, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. You can also use your favorite herbs for seasoning.
Another important tip that has to be kept in mind is the smoke point of the olive oil that is being used. Experts recommend that olive oil (or any other oil) must not reach a temperature that exceeds its smoke point. By smoke point it refers to a stage where an oil begins to break down. So exceeding this particular temperature imparts an unpleasant taste to the food being cooked in the oil. There are usually three types or grades of olive oil. These are extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. The third one is usually preferred for cooking. This is because this oil undergoes a better refinement process than the other two. That is the reason why olive oil is considered best for stir-frying. Stir-frying requires the cooking oil to withstand a high amount of heat, and olive oil has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular cooking oils degrade on repeated high heating, whereas olive oil doesn’t.
In comparison to other oils like vegetable oil, corn oil, peanut oil, etc. olive oil is effective in reducing blood pressure. Research done on the use of olive oil for cooking revealed that blood pressure medication could be reduced to 50% of the normal dose in patients who used olive oil for cooking. Olive oil is known to consist of high quantities of mono-unsaturated fat and low quantities of saturated and polyunsaturated fat. This is the key reason olive oil helps lower cholesterol levels and is regarded as a healthy cooking oil.
LDL cholesterol is one of the major health concerns in recent times. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is termed as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Gradual accumulation of this agent on the arteries causes severe heart disease. Using olive oil for cooking has also been found to be effective in countering the ill effects of this type of cholesterol.
Apart from reducing the chances of developing cancer, olive oil has also been recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) to be beneficial for the heart.
Using olive oil for cooking is an old tradition and the list of recipes using this oil is an endless. Despite its many benefits, it is important to remember that the oil is still a fat. It causes no ill effects while it is consumed in limited and required proportions. By far, olive oil is good for your heart and adds great taste to your food!