The 4th of July – and summer in particular – have close ties to the grill. For many people, there are few things much more enjoyable than a summer cookout with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s been well known for a while that eating grilled, fried, or broiled meats can significantly increase your risk for cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research has been recommending that we stop grilling meats since 2008 and the American College of Nutrition has addressed this in their guidelines for preventing cancer, recommending that we avoid eating things such as grilled chicken or steak, not to mentioned processed meats like sausage, bacon, and cold cuts.
Why are these organizations so adamant about avoiding grilled animal products? Cooking and charring animal products releases cancer-causing carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. On top of that, grilled meats contain toxins called advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) that lead to chronic inflammation, premature aging, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
Faced with these facts, what are we to do? Are we supposed to just stop having daytime cookouts, throw away our grills, and stop enjoying ourselves? Do we have to turn down every invitation from friends and family for a summer barbecue? Absolutely not! There are plenty of other health-promoting and delicious foods that work incredibly well on the grill. Here are 6 foods to try grilling today (and all summer):
Portobello Mushrooms. The best option to replace that charred burger, Portobello mushrooms are not only packed with protein, they’ve actually been shown to be powerful cancer fighters. Drizzle a bit of tamari and Worcestershire sauce on them and throw them right on the grill and you’ve got yourself a meaty and delicious burger replacement.
Eggplant. Another easy one, just slice eggplant into strips, spray your grill with a little cooking spray, and throw the slices right on there. Grilled eggplant gets crispy on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside, and make great additions to sandwiches or as a stand-alone side.
Pineapple. Grilled pineapple is an insanely sweet summer treat. Slice into wedges or rings and grill about 2-3 minutes per side and you’ve got yourself another great burger topping. Pineapples are loaded with antioxidants and may have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
Avocado. Yes, avocado can be grilled, and quite easily! Slice an avocado in half, remove the pit, add a tiny bit of coconut oil, and place flesh side down on the grill until slightly charred. Top with lime juice, roasted tomatoes, or any other topping of choice.
Romaine Lettuce. Even greens can be grilled! Slice a head of romaine lettuce in half lengthwise and place face down on the grill for a few minutes until lightly charred. Let cool and chop into a salad to add a whole new dimension of flavor!
Tempeh. The American College of Nutrition recommends the consumption of whole soy products (as opposed to isolated soy products found in processed foods) to prevent cancer in their latest guidelines as well. While soy isn’t for everyone, there’s no better soy-based option than tempeh. Marinate it in whatever you’d typically season your steak with and put it right on the grill as well. It’s a delicious and filling option that might even help you forget about those charred steaks you won’t be cooking.
And guess what? This is only a small sample of the healthy plant-based foods that taste absolutely amazing when grilled! The bottom line is that there are tons of foods to grill that are not only healthy but delicious as well, so although grilling meat might not be a safe option, summer cookouts are here to stay. Enjoy your healthy grilling!