Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summer Time is BBQ Time

Did you know that illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis were never seen before man learned to conquer fire and use it to cook their foods? Using fire to cook meats is a fun and tasty way to make your summer meals, but keep in mind that cooking meat at high temperatures may not be healthy for you or your family.

The National Cancer Institute reports that cooking meat increases the amount of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are created when amino acids and creatine (found in muscle meats) react at high temperatures. Muscle meats, which are the meats most commonly used for outdoor cooking, are where higher levels of HCAs are found. The NCI also states that there are 4 factors that are included in HCA formation: type of food, cooking method, temperature, and time. One study conducted by researchers showed a threefold increase in the content of HCAs when the cooking temperature was increased from 200° to 250°C (392° to 482°F). The burnt portions or well done parts of the meat are higher in HCAs than the rare portions of the meat.

Most will agree that baking, stewing, poaching or boiling meats are the best ways to reduce the levels of HCAs. By cooking muscle meats slowly and at a lower temperature you can reduce the amounts of these possible cancer causing carcinogens formed during cooking.

Some believe that using spices or marinades that are high in antioxidants may reduce the amount of HCAs created when barbecuing, but you must be careful not to use marinades that are high in sugar. Making your own, is the best way to maintain control of what goes into the marinade.

From a health and wellness viewpoint, we recommend that you eat your vegetables and fruits as raw as you can, and with the skin on when possible. Meat should be cooked to kill bacteria and contaminants, but you should cook it on a low temperature for a longer period of time to reduce the HCAs. Most meats purchased at the market will tell you on the label what the temperature of the meat should be in order to be eaten safely.

If you are concerned about lessening your risk factors for cancer or reducing inflammation in your body, HCAs are definitely something you should consider when planning your summer meals. Using antioxidant spices to reduce the occurance of HCAs is a great idea, and making your own marinade can give you braggin' rights all summer long.

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