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Life And Arts, Health, Seven Days, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica

Dr. Mao's Wellness Living: Beware The Burn; Safe And Healthy Grilling Tips

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted May. 6, 2012, 2:00 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

Whether you enjoy the hot sizzle of a juicy burger or the sweet crunch of corn on the cob, grilling your food can be a tasty and fun way to prepare your meals when the weather warms up. However, without the right precautions you may be exposing your food to cancer-causing agents known as carcinogens. In order to safeguard your health, follow these tips to ensure that your grilled treats increase your longevity all summer long!

Beware of the burn! Those tasty grill marks decorating your meat may look pretty but they can also harbor dangerous cancer-causing agents known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and heterocyclic amines (HCA). The combination of extreme heat and fat creates these hazardous substances. Even if you use the helpful tips that follow, grilling shouldn’t be an everyday thing — but in moderation, it is surefire tasty fun!

Choose Lean Meats

In order to prevent exposure to carcinogens, choose lean cuts of meat and poultry and trim any extra fat from your meats. When fat comes in contact with heat, it creates a cloud of smoke filled with harsh chemicals. Skinless poultry, and cuts of beef like sirloin, chuck, tenderloin, and round are all healthier choices. Lean cuts of meat are also lower in the saturated fats that can increase heart disease with over-consumption. For a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, skip the beef and grill your favorite fish. Avoid processed hot dogs and bacon that contain nitrates, excess sodium, and are high in saturated fat.

Word to the wise: Use tongs instead of a fork to turn your meat over on the grill. Using a fork can pierce the meat and cause extra fat to drip onto the hot coals, which will create more smoke.

Veg Out!

If meat isn’t welcome at your party, invite some tasty vegetables that are chockfull of fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals! Asparagus, portabella mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, corn, and sweet potatoes are all excellent choices for the grill. You may also try to incorporate some of your favorite vegetables into your ground meat if you choose to cook burgers. These vegetables will add a nice crunch to your meal, while keeping your tummy full and your heart healthy!

Healthy Bite: Instead of high fat cheese or mayonnaise, try adding some sliced avocado to your turkey burger for a creamy yet healthy topping. Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, this green fruit is a great way to add flavor.

Bonus Tip: To support your heart health and heart function, consider trying Super Clarity, a classic herbal combination formulated to support your heart and its healthy circulation.

Fire Up Your Fruit

Trade the fatty ice cream and pecan pie for some refreshing grilled fruit! Cooking fruit can intensify the naturally sweet flavors of these antioxidant-rich cancer fighters. To refresh your taste buds after a juicy burger, try grilling fresh pineapple rounds. Make sure to brush the fruit with a touch of vegetable oil to prevent it from burning. You can also grill slices of peaches, apples, pears, or plums and add them to your favorite greens for a refreshing summer salad.

Sweet Secret: To grill small fruits -- like strawberries, cherries, or figs -- skewer them on kebobs to prevent them from falling into the fire. Make sure to soak the wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes before grilling them to prevent any burning.

Make Mouthwatering Marinades

Marinating not only adds flavor to your food, it also adds a protective coat against carcinogens. Before grilling your foods, make sure to marinate them in spices, herbs, vinegars, and vegetable oil to prevent them from burning and possibly forming cancer-causing agents.

Food for Thought: Instead of grilling your foods directly on the grill, place a layer of foil underneath your meat to catch all of the fat drippings. Piercing the foil with little holes will limit the smoke formation that causes dangerous carcinogens to circulate in the air.

Be a Grilling Guru

If you prefer your meat well done, you may want to think twice before biting into a blackened chicken wing. Charred meats can be a breeding ground for carcinogens, so be careful not to overcook your foods. To further avoid a build-up of hazardous chemicals, make sure to clean your grill after every use. It is important to brush away residue that may have been left over from previous weekend cookouts.

Fire up Healthy: Hardwood products and charcoal burn at lower temperatures and are healthier options than softwood.

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at contact@taoofwellness.com.

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