Firing up the grill for a cookout with friends and family is a favorite pastime. Unknowingly, you may make some grilling mistakes that could harm your health. Fortunately, you can do a few things to protect yourself and those you love. Here are ten ways grilling can harm your health and how to prevent it.
1 – Grilling increase your risk of some cancer.
Cooking some meats at high temperatures creates chemical carcinogens. These toxic carcinogens cause cancer. The type of meat you’re grilling, how long you grill it, and the grill temperature determines how much and what kind of carcinogens accumulate. Certain types of cooking produce high levels of mutagens. Mutagens cause changes in your DNA cells. This change leads to diseases like cancer.
But what cooking methods create mutagens?
- Pan-frying: This type of cooking leads to the highest mutagen activity
Studies found that their urine contained increased mutagenic activity after participants ate meats cooked at high temperatures.
According to researchers, colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in the western world. Eating certain meats increases your risk of colorectal cancer–like these:
- Processed meats through smoking, curing, or chemical preservation
You can lower your risk of colorectal cancer and still eat meat by taking certain precautions when you prepare the meat. These methods include marinating your proteins in an Asian-style marinade. Here’s an Asian-style marinade to try:
- ½ Cup Soy Sauce
- ¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Mongolian Fire Oil
- Two tablespoons of Minced Garlic
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Marinade the meat anywhere from two hours to twenty-four hours.
Other ways to protect your health when you’re grilling include these habits:
- Flip the meat often
- Reduce the pan temperature
- Or preheat your meats with the microwave
2 – Grilling at your cookouts can increase your chances of food poisoning.
Warm, humid weather and food are a dangerous combination leading to bacteria causing food poisoning. Bacteria proliferate on food in these conditions. As a result, more get food poisoning during the summer than in other seasons. Here are some tips when grilling out to protect you and your guests from getting sick:
- Separate the raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination
- Cut up raw meats on a different surface than your other foods.
- If raw meats touch cutting boards, utensils, and plates, wash them with soap and hot water.
- Use new serving spoons or plates for your cooked foods.
- Once you’ve grilled your meat, don’t let it sit on a cold grill. Keep it warm, at least 140°F, or hotter. You can also put the meat into your refrigerator within two hours or freeze it.
3 – Undercooking or serving raw meats can make you sick.
Cookouts are a great time to socialize with friends and family. But undercooked meat is an unwelcome guest. Be sure to cook your meat thoroughly. Looking at the meat’s color isn’t an accurate way to decide if it’s thoroughly cooked. It’s best to buy yourself a meat thermometer and use it to test your grilled meats. Put your meat thermometer into the thickest parts of the meat to check the temperature.
Here are the safe cooked internal temperatures of some cookout favorites:
- Chicken breasts(boneless) 165°
- Whole chicken 165°
- Ground chicken patties at 165°
- Ground beef patties at 160°
- Steak medium rare-145°; medium 160°; well done 170°
- Fish 145°
- Hot dogs 165° (steaming hot)
4 – Charred food is dangerous.
You may love the taste of charred meat, but you should know that when you sear the exterior of your meat, it creates heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs). Regularly eating grilled meat increases your risk of cancer in different body organs. Plus, when you cook meat over an open flame, as the fat drips and produces smoke, it forms polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds connect to cancer.
Can you grill and still avoid HAAs and PAHs? Of course, it takes monitoring your grill’s heat level and watching how well done the meat is. Here are some other things to avoid:
- Use a medium flame, not a high flame, when cooking meat. This lowering prevents HAAs, but it still cooks the meat thoroughly.
- Don’t press your burgers on the grill, so the juice drips into the flame.
- Remove all marinades and shake off any excess before you grill the meat.
- Avoid using sweeteners such as sugar, maple syrup, or honey in glazes. The sugars will burn and char the meat. If you want to add a glaze, do it in the last few minutes of grilling so it doesn’t scorch.
5 – Certain foods from your cookouts can cause high blood pressure
Store-bought marinades and pre-marinated meats are convenient. Sadly, many of these are full of sugar and salt. These put you at risk for high blood pressure without your knowledge. Be sure to read the ingredients in the pre-marinated meats or the store-bought marinades.
Opt for thinner marinades that contain naturally healthy ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs. Interestingly enough, certain herbs are carcinogen-neutralizing. These include:
6. Grilling red meats too often leads to high cholesterol
Regularly consuming lots of red meat–a grilling favorite–isn’t healthy for you. In particular, overeating red meat leads to high cholesterol. It also puts you at risk for heart problems. It doesn’t matter if you grill, bake, or fry-eating saturated fats–it isn’t heart healthy. If you want to reduce cholesterol risks, increasing your vegetable intake and eating more fish to add protein to your diet is best.
7 – Weight gain and more can come from enjoying cookouts too often.
Hot dogs may taste great, but they aren’t good for you. They’re full of sodium, fat, and preservatives. If you continue eating high-fat foods like this, it’ll lead to weight gain. Besides gaining weight, consuming hot dogs carries other risks.
- Risk of cancer: Hot dogs are red meat, plus many other things. Consuming large quantities of red meat may cause cancer, heart problems, and high cholesterol.
- Risk of type 2 diabetes: Hotdogs are processed using salt and sugar.
- May cause childhood leukemia: Some thought is being given to childhood leukemia and the consumption of red meats like hot dogs.
- May harm pregnant women: Cured meats like hot dogs can contain listeria that causes flu-like symptoms. This illness is dangerous for people with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, and small kids.
8 – Grilling raises the risk of AGEs exposure.
When you grill meat at a high temperature, there can be harmful side effects. One by-product of grilling meats is a compound called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are dangerous compounds formed when proteins or fats combine with sugar in your bloodstream. Foods exposed to high temps such as frying, grilling, or roasting are high in AGEs. Your body can eliminate some harmful compounds, but if you eat too many, you can’t keep up with them, and they accumulate. High levels of AGEs link to the following:
- Inflammation (causes some diseases)
- Premature aging
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
AGEs have a high oxidative potential. They occur naturally when sugars react with groups of proteins and fats. So, when grilling at your cookouts, ensure you lightly grill the meat. Follow the recommended serving temperatures listed in #3.
9 – You may consume residual animal medications.
Eating meat from factory-type farms is dangerous to your health. This is because these farm factories use many drugs to raise these animals. Safety inspections of many of these farm factories have detected a variety of drugs in violation of USDA regulations regarding raising animals for food, including these:
- Antibiotics: penicillin and ciprofloxacin
- Flunixin: an anti-inflammatory drug
When you grill, you heat any residual medications in the beef or poultry. Exposure to high temperatures won’t neutralize the drugs but can make them more toxic. When you’re grilling, purchase grass-fed, organic meats. You can always opt for grilling vegetables–then you’re not at risk.
10. Dementia odds may increase from aluminum (although research is ongoing).
When you’re grilling out, do you like to wrap meats or veggies in aluminum foil to keep them warm? Some evidence links aluminum and other metals and dementia. Studies show there are properties in aluminum that are neurotoxic. Exactly how this occurs is unknown, and it’s a controversial issue, but it’s a known fact aluminum is a neurotoxin. A neurotoxin is a substance that alters the function and structure of your nervous system.
Besides aluminum, neurotoxins can occur in many both natural and artificial compounds such as these:
- Ethyl alcohol
- Spot cleaning removers
- Upholstery cleaners
- Dry-cleaning solutions
A small but still considerable amount of aluminum crosses into your brain and accumulates there. This may cause significant health problems, especially for the elderly, small children, and people with kidney problems.
Conversely, other researchers remain unconvinced of this claim, so the research continues. Until we have a definitive answer, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Final thoughts on how grilling can harm your health
Cookouts are as American as apple pie. But, if you’re planning on grilling for friends and family soon, reconsider some of your grilling methods. Avoid some of the most common grilling mistakes that could harm you and your loved ones. Keep your grill at moderate heat to avoid high temperatures while grilling, avoid pressing the meat down on the grilling rack causing the juices to drip into the flame, and never char your meat.
Try using Asian-style marinades because they appear to reduce some harmful compounds that sugar-based marinades may cause. Grill fish instead of red meat or opt for grilling veggies at your cookout. These are small changes you can make to stay healthy now and in the future.