As the summer comes to an end, it’s natural to want to try and squeeze in a few more barbeques before the nights get too short and it gets too wet for outdoor entertaining. Barbeque food seems the perfect solution for anyone who is following the Paleo diet, but is it as healthy as it sounds?
Barbeque Food Safety
The most obvious issue with barbeque food is that it is often served under-cooked. Charcoal barbeques in particular are prone to this, but some gas grills can leave food under-cooked too. Eating under-cooked meat, especially meat cooked on a grill that has not reached a high temperature, can expose you to the risk of food poisoning from e.coli or salmonella. To prevent this, pre-heat foods in the microwave or a conventional oven and then finish them off on the grill.
Cooking with Charcoal
A 2007 study conducted at Harvard warned of a new health risk from barbequed food. When meat is cooked at a very high temperature (the temperature of an appropriately hot barbeque grill), the amino acids in it react with creatine, forming potentially carcinogenic heterocyclic amines.
In addition to this, the burning charcoal (along with burning fat that has fallen into the pan), will create smoke that contains carcinogenic chemicals. The longer food is exposed to the smoke, the more of those chemicals it will absorb. According to the American Cancer Society, these carcinogenic compounds, which are known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can adhere to the food when it chars. These carcinogens can increase your risk of breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.
Minimising Your Risk
If you are determined to enjoy barbeques on the Paleo diet, then using a gas-powered grill will reduce your cancer risk significantly. Other ways to reduce your risk include:
- Cooking smaller pieces of meat.
- Choosing lean meats instead of fatty varieties, so that the barbeque produces less smoke.
- Pre-cooking the meat in the microwave.
- Marinating your meats before cooking them to prevent charring.
- Flipping the meat regularly while it is cooking.
- Remember that it is safe to serve beef steak and lamb when it is pink inside, as long as the outer area is cooked thoroughly. Burgers must be cooked all the way through.
- If you must cook on a charcoal grill, do so in a well-ventilated area and try not to inhale too much smoke.
Which Meats Are Best for Grilling?
Try to choose the best quality and most ethically produced meats that you can. Free-range chicken, grass-fed beef and ethically caught fish are your best choices. Intensively farmed meats tend to contain traces of antibiotics, growth hormones and drugs that are less common in more ethically reared animals. If you are eating fish, remember that tuna and sword fish can contain higher concentrations of mercury than other fish and that high consumption of them can be dangerous.
Barbeques can be a lot of fun and there are ways to reduce the risks. Enjoyed in moderation, barbeque food can be a healthy part of the Paleo diet.