The health benefits of barbecuing, plus 5 recipes

Grilled Vegetables

It’s grilling season, and there is good reason to forgo the kitchen and fire up your barbecue. Here are a some ways that grilling can help you eat healthier.

1. Grilling injects your food with those deliciously smoky flavours, reducing the need for fattening or sugar-filled sauces. You can usually get away with nothing but a little olive oil and herbs on veggies, and a spice rub or light marinade on meats for a mouthwatering meal.

2. It’s a convenient way to eat fresh food. Processed food has no place on a barbecue. And there’s nothing simpler than throwing fresh produce on the grill in the summer (forget the hot stove!). There’s barely any prep required and cooking times are minimal, so there are no excuses for not eating fresh.

3. It gets you outdoors. Once you’re already cooking outside, it’s a good idea to eat alfresco as well. When you have fewer indoor distractions (such as the TV), you’re more likely to eat slowly and mindfully, which helps keep portion controls in check.

Some things to consider

Despite all of the benefits of grilling, there are some health risks that come with cooking over a flame. There are amino acids in meat that can turn to carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when they’re cooked at high temperatures, especially when cooked for a longer time. Meanwhile, smoke that rises from flare-ups on the coals can contribute more carcinogens. But there are ways to protect yourself from the formation of these harmful chemicals. Keep these guidelines in mind when you’re grilling.

-Marinate your meat. There has been some evidence that marinades can decrease the formation of HCAs, particularly if the marinades are spicy or contain rosemary, a powerful herb in counteracting those carcinogens. Another study found that marinating beef in red wine could greatly reduce carcinogens in the meat.

-Choose leaner meats, not only to minimize the amount of saturated fat you’re consuming but also to reduce flare-ups that cause smoke.

-Cook smaller pieces of meat so that you can cook it more quickly and at a lower temperature, reducing the amount of HCAs.

-Load up on vegetables. The same carcinogens are not present in veggies.

Grilling recipes

Try these healthy and delicious recipes for the barbecue. Happy grilling!

Grilled Caesar Salad

Grilled Balsamic Vegetables

Maple Buttermilk Grilled Chicken

Cajun-Grilled Shrimp With Summer Vegetable Orzo

Maple Grilled Peaches

(Photography: Joe Kim)