Now meat isn’t the only healthy source of protein. This lovely building block of health is also found in dairy, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Today though, we are looking at how you cook your meat. Not that you can’t cook other protein sources, but because the way meat is cooked can impact its health benefits significantly. The temperature range, cook time and resulting product all impact the way the nutrients in meat react. Specifically, when it is grilled or cooked quickly it changes the acids within it.
The tasty zest of summer. No matter how much you clean your grill there’s always a black sheen of left overs coating it’s cooking grid. Thank goodness too, because those flavors infuse your charred chicken and steak giving it a taste you could never achieve in the oven. Whether you love gas or charcoal doesn’t matter, it’s the crispy, delicious burnt bits we’re talking about today. Although it tastes delicious, and it seems logical that the fat dripping off of the meat would make grilled foods better, the truth is they aren’t necessarily. The National Cancer Institute explains that cancer causing HCA’s or heterocyclic amines, “are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures. Implying that overly charred meat is more hazardous to our health than a more gently cooked meat product. Don’t throw your Grill Master out yet though! There is some hope. Not only have some studies found that the contributing factors may be more complicated (such as what the meat you’re consuming consumed first), there are other options!
Flip your meat frequently and cook it at a slightly lower temperature.
This allows it to heat more evenly and prevents heavy charring from occurring. If you’re worried it won’t taste as good with those black crumblies, be soothed in the knowledge that slow cooking leads to more tender meats in most cases.
Marinate your meat.
Forget about charred remains of prior grill dinners, you can flavor your meat with delicious herbs and spices. Not only will these keep it delicious, many spices offer high antioxidants which will help keep you healthy. Acids like citrus and vinegar protect the meat as well. Mmmmmm, a nice sweet and sour chicken marinade sure hits the spot! Just be conscious of what you’re adding, many pre-made marinades are high in sugar which brings its own host of problems.
Pre-cook the meat.
If you just can’t let go of that charred crunch, then get the meat partially cooked using a gentle method such boiling or low temp baking and finish it on the grill. This will still expose you to some charred bit, but the meat won’t suffer the implications of being cooked over high heat for long periods of time.
Giving Up the Grill
For some the grill just won’t be an option. Whether the knowledge of potential carcinogens scares you, or you live in one of those pesky climates where grills are puffing smoke half the year and buried under precipitation the rest, then you have additional options for cooking. You can choose a more gentle method for getting your meat made such as a pressure cooker, crock pot, par-boiling, braising or baking it. Each of these offers their own unique advantage. Play around with what works for you and your family. We aren’t saying you should give up your grill, we are just sharing the potential dangers if it is overused. As with everything in life: moderation is key. Whatever it is you choose to prepare your proteins, just make sure you’re eating them. Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet and a successful weight loss program.