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Is Grilling Food Healthy?

by Jessica Blue

About Jessica Blue

An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.

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Humans have been cooking food over an open flame for hundreds of thousands of years. These days, you can grill your food over flame or over coals, and it's still one of the most effective ways to seal in moisture and flavor without adding fat. While grilling is in some ways a very healthy cooking method, there are some concerns that it could have negative health effects. If you choose to grill your food, be smart about how you do it.

Grilling to Reduce Fat

Compared to frying food, grilling is a much healthier option because you can grill foods without adding oil or fat to them. Frying food in oil sends your calorie count skyrocketing, because even healthy fats, like olive oil, contain at least 100 calories per tablespoon Considering you should only be getting 400 to 700 fat calories a day, that's a significant addition. Cooking meat and vegetables on a grill doesn't just reduce the amount of fat you are adding; it also lets much of the food's existing fat melt and drip away.

Cancer Risk

According to the National Cancer Institute, grilling food may potentially introduce a risk for cancer. When you grill meat such as beef, pork, fish or poultry over an open flame, it causes chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to form. These compounds have been shown to negatively affect your DNA and contribute to genetic mutations -- one of the major driving forces behind cancer growth.

Healthy Grilling

Grilling vegetables and fruits is not only safe, it brings out their natural flavors. Use herbs and spices to season your vegetables -- for example, try grilling mushrooms seasoned with rosemary. If you're grilling meat, trim off the fat before cooking. Marinate it to add flavor and moisture, then cook meat at a lower temperature for a longer time. Alternatively, pre-cook meat in the microwave to reduce its exposure to high grilling temperatures.

Other Alternatives

Grilling is healthy overall, but if you're worried about cancer risks, many other cooking methods can be effective substitutes. Roasting meat and vegetables in the oven leaves them relatively moist and lets fat drip away. Stir-frying can be an effective way to add flavor without overcooking, while braising cooks meat without drying it.

Photo Credits:

  • vegetables on the grill image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.