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Short Answer:

Yes, Grilling is Paleo but..

Aren’t There Risks Associated with Grilling?

Grilling is the most popular Paleo cooking method. Going back to the caveman era, it is the most available cooking method they have back then.

Grilling enhances the natural flavour of ingredients, be it a meat, seafood or vegetables. To do it, sear your food on the hottest part of the grill for a few minutes on each side turning only once to form grill marks and finishing it off on the cooler part of the grill for a couple of minute.

Vegetables and meats retain more vitamins and minerals (riboflavin and thiamine in meat) upon grilling. High heat from grill keeps the moisture of food which keeps it tender.

But along with the stated benefits of grilling, there are risks too. Cooking meat at high temperatures like grilling can cause chemical reactions that produce toxins called advanced glycation end products or AGEs. These are linked to imbalance of antioxidants in the body together with inflammation that can lead to amplified risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and Heterocyclic amines (HCA) are compounds formed when the meat is grilled especially when charred. The smoke created when the fat from grilling drips down on the hot coals contains PAH. And the charred part of the meat formed from grilling has HCA. These toxins or carcinogens have been associated with increased risk of cancer.

Tips to Healthy Grilling

All the PAH, AGEs and HCA might sound scary that you don’t even want to grill again. But there are tips that you can follow so for your grilling to be healthier.

  • Do not eat charred parts. One way to cut down the formation of HCA in food is by not charring it.  And since we cannot avoid it in grilling, you can remove the charred parts before eating your food.
  • Microwave before you grill. There are studies that recommend microwaving the meat for about 30 to 90 seconds before throwing them to the grill. This can reduce HCA content and will minimize the fat drip offs on the hot coal that can produce PAH.
  • Use tin foil in grilling. Put some sheet of foil under the meat you are grilling. By doing this, the juices from the meat will be caught by the foil, hence avoiding PAH and cut back on flame flare ups.
  • Try marinades. Some studies showed that adding marinades to your food can minimize the amount of carcinogens produced in grilling up to 90 percent.
  • Grill more fruits and vegetables. PAHs and HCAs do not form on grilled fruits and vegetables. This is more beneficial because you can get more nutritional value from fruits and vegetables without the added toxins. Nutrients in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can alter the way the body metabolizes some chemicals produced by grilling. Phytochemicals in some fruits and vegetables may reduce certain types of cancer too.
  • Avoid overcooking. Overcooking the meat at high temperatures for a longer time increases the amount of carcinogenic substances produced in the food. The lesser the time in the grill, the lesser the smoke exposure.
  • Flip your food. Turn your meat frequently without piercing it (keeping away the juices from dripping).
  • Invest on thermometer. Using a meat thermometer can regulate the temperature of the grill. This will prevent you from cooking at very high temperature. To use it, just place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.
  • Don’t make it a daily habit. Alternate grilling with other cooking methods. Doing it a few times won’t hurt. But doing it every day, hello carcinogens! You might want to save it for special occasions.
  • Clean the grill. After cooking, scrape down the grill to get rid of the carcinogenic residues that can build up. This may avoid transferring left over chemicals to the food that you will be grilling next.

Click here to see what other cooking methods are Paleo.

What experts say about Grilling.. Is it Paleo?

“There are several ways to reduce the risks associated with grilling and still enjoy the flavor” – Robb Wolf

“Grilling gives the meat a subtle smoky flavor you’re going to love.” – Mark Sisson

All you ever wanted to know about Grilling and Paleo

Popular Paleo. Paleo Grilling: Recipes for Summer

Paleo Leap. The Art of Cooking Steak

Mark’s Daily Apple. Is Gently Cooked Food Better for You?

Botsford Blog. 4 Health Benefits of Grilling

Paleo Living Magazine. Is Grilling Paleo? 5 Easy Tips to Make Your Grilling Healthier

Rubies & Radishes. 4 Steps to Defeating “Grill-timidation”. Tony Federico

WebMD. A Healthier Way to Grill

Bon Appetit. Is Grilling Good for You? Or Bad? Here’s What Science Says

Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. Uribarri, J., Woodruff, S., Goodman, S., et al. Division of Nephrology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY. Journal of the American Dietician Association, 2010 Jun;110(6):911-16.e12.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cancer in man. Mastrangelo, G., Fadda, E., Marzia, V. Institute of Occupational Medicine, Univeristy of Padova, Consorzio Padova Ricerche, Padova, Italy. Environmental Health Perspectives, 1996 Nov;104(11):1166-70.

Factors affecting human heterocyclic amine intake and the metabolism of PhIP. Knize, M.G., Kulp, K.S., Salmon, C.P., et al. Biology and Biotechnology Research Program, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA. Mutation Research, 2002 Sep 30;506-507:153-62.

Other names for Grilling

Barbecuing, Char-broiling

Did we miss anything?

Comment below and let us know what you think. Do you agree with our conclusion?

photo credit: fajitas 2