Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer dining, and I’m sure many of you have already had the grill fired up a few times this season.
However, many foods that people associate with grilling, like ribs, sausages, hot dogs, and hamburgers, are either processed or high in saturated fat and sodium, which can all contribute to cardiovascular risks (if consumed regularly).
Further, research suggests that cooking meat at high temperatures can cause harmful chemical reactions that boost the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
But that doesn’t mean that grilling is no good.
You can take steps to make your barbecue healthier for your heart and still deliver the flavor you desire.
Choose healthier proteins: Save the ribs, pork shoulder, sausages, and burgers for special occasions while sticking to leaner proteins, like chicken, fish, and lean beef for regular nightly meals.
Pre-cook or cut proteins up: There are harmful chemicals that can accumulate the longer you cook fatty muscle meats, which can start at 300 to 350 degrees. Pre-cooking or cutting meat into smaller pieces that cook faster may help diminish some risks.
You can add smaller pieces with veggies to make kebabs.
Add spice and seasonings: Some preliminary research suggests adding pepper and other herbs and spices to the surface of meat before grilling may significantly reduce harmful chemical reactions. You’d need about a teaspoon of pepper and some other spices for a quarter-pound hamburger.
The preliminary research also suggests that marinades containing mint family herbs like basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram are just as effective as pepper. It’s also possible that antioxidant-rich seasonings like garlic and paprika may also block the formation of harmful chemical compounds.
Smart sides: Filling half of your plate with heart-healthy sides like grilled or raw veggies, oil-based slaw, and bean salads can also help make the grilling season healthier. Whole wheat buns are also a healthier alternative to white.