The BBQ and Your Health!

Now that Summer is in full swing, so is BBQ season. Who doesn't love a bbq and everything that goes with it??

The smell of the grill, fresh salads, burgers, steak, corn, potatoes, cocktails, family, friends and great weather!

I'm not here to rain on anyone's BBQ, but there are there are some health risks involved with BBQ'd food.

Most people know the golden rules of BBQ's. Careful with salads and how they are stored, make sure food is cooked to temperature, avoid cross-contamination of raw meats and wash your hands after handling raw meats.

Did you know that wonderful grill smell can also be the source of a major health risk??

Many people love the flavour and texture of BBQ'd meats, but the char contains cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines or HCAs.

HCAs form when food is in very close proximity to a heat source. Flame-grilling is an example of food coming into direct contact with a heat source. The longer food is exposed to high heat, the greater the HCA formation and the char on your food means it has a carcinogen coating.

High levels of HCAs have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals exposed to them. Consuming charred meats may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. A chemical chain reaction can occur when food is cooked at very high temperatures. Inflammatory products called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are created. The body cannot digest them or get rid of them easily. They are linked to aging and cellular stress. AGEs accumulate in your organs and cause damage over time. AGEs are found in char.

Sadly, we all know someone who loves to be the "grill master." One who takes pride in their BBQ'n skills. They may even have a dedicated apron!

Unfortunately, the fat dripping onto the coals create PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are linked to lung damage. These toxins are released into the air via the BBQ smoke many love to inhale. The more smoke, the greater the toxins generated. They are also absorbed right into the food. Please advise your "Grill Master to avoid inhaling the smoke!

But wait, don't despair, your next BBQ isn't ruined! There are things you can do to reduce these health risks.

First of all, don't stand over the grill inhaling the smoke! As tempting as the aroma may be, you're just coating your lungs in toxins!

Grill veggies! You get the added health benefits from eating your veggies without the risk of HCAs as amino acids and creatine, or creatinine must be present for HCA's to form. These are found in animal products. Also, the cancer-fighting properties found in many veggies can help offset the cancer-causing chemicals.

Pre-cook your meat to reduce the cooking time on the high heat of the grill. Additionally, less exposure to high heat for any food reduces the nutrient loss. Pre-cooking your meat can also reduce the fat that can drip on the coals creating PAHs. Preventing drippings from smoking can also be done by placing a piece of aluminum foil under the meat. Using leaner cuts of meat or trimming excess fat will reduce drippings too.

Get creative with rubs and marinades. Marinades can reduce dripping fat and smoke and reduces charing. Coat your meat in a thick marinade or rub to increase flavour and reduce risk. Using rosemary and citrus fruits in your rub can also reduce HCA levels. You can also use an oil with a high smoke point such as high-oleic safflower or avocado oil to coat your meat.

Summer is short so enjoy it! Just keep these tips in mind to maintain a healthy lifestyle.