BBQ – Healthy or NOT!

This is a repeat from last year, but a good a good refresher now that the weather is starting to get nice out.  As the BBQ’s and campfires light up, there are many fun social aspects, associated around these events.  Chips, burnt marshmallows, charred meat and the fact that it takes places outdoors gives much pleasure.  Not to be the bearer of bad news but there can be some disturbing downsides to our health if precautions are not taken.  But let’s break it down. 


  • Reduces fat in foods by grilling or BBQ 
  • Tastes yummy!

Health Concerns: 

The concern around burnt food increasing the risk of cancer relates to the chemicals that form when food is overcooked or burnt.  

  • Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods, especially French fries, potato chips, during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying and grilling.  
  • PAH’s – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
    PAH’s form when fat from the meat drips onto the hot coals or grill element.   
  • HCA’s heterocyclic amines
    HCA’s are produced when red meat, poultry and fish are cooked using high-heat

So, what’s the problem?

Other than the loaded calories and highly saturated fats that can be ingested from firing up very-high fat meats like smokies or sausages, but even worse are the carcinogens formed when barbequing.   HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic— meaning, they cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer. HCAs are not found in significant amounts in foods other than meat, cooked at high temperatures. PAHs however, can be found in other charred foods, as well as in cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes.  Unfortunately, that yummy charring that forms on meat can contain PAHs.  Acrylamide levels in food vary widely depending on cooking time, and the method and temperature of the cooking process.  Some studies have associated dietary acrylamide intake with certain cancers, such as kidney, endometrial, and ovarian cancers

But don’t despair, grill lovers — a new, healthy way to grill is possible.

Top 10 TIPS for Safer BBQ Foods while still reducing fat, keeping the food yummy, heart healthy and fun!

10. Boil or microwave to pre-cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures this can reduce HCA formation by reducing the time that meat is in contact with high heat to finish cooking.

9. Clean your BBQ before cooking.

8. Avoid direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times.

7. Flip! Continuously turning meat over can substantially reduce HCA formation.

6. Remove charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings can also reduce HCA and PAH exposure.

5. Limit the amount of fat that drips, use lean cuts, trim visible fat and skin.

4. Marinate with fat-free or low-fat marinades to limit the fat that drips on the coals. In some studies, this has shown to reduce the formation of HCAs by as much as 92% to 99% in some studies, but don’t baste.

3. Skewer It – This will cut down on grilling time as you will have smaller pieces to cook.

2. Substitute or Add!  Grilled fruits and vegetables don’t produce carcinogens and have high antioxidants like Vitamin C which help neutralize carcinogens from the meat.  Also, Wasabi or horseradish are great additions as they also can help to prevent cancer as it aids detoxification of persistent carcinogenic molecules.  A study found that ITCs (Isothiocyanates), extracted from wasabi root inhibited the formation of acrylamide by 90 %

1. Have fun! BBQ with a glass of wine a glass of wine which offers some health benefits too!

*If this article or any past articles leaves you with questions, the want to be a better you, the courage to take the first step to a happier you, than please contact me at: 

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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