Summertime traditions are finally here. Unfortunately, one popular tradition is now notorious for increasing the body's toxic load--barbecues. You may have already given up fried and processed foods. Now, you're probably wondering why grilled foods have to go, too. The reason may surprise you.
Although the high (unhealthy) fat content of fried foods is one reason they cannot be part of a healthy diet, it is not the only reason. Fried and grilled foods, especially meats, share one common problem: they use high temperature cooking methods that can produce inflammatory compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These compounds increase your risk of disease and aggravate diseases that may be present, especially Alzheimer's, liver, or heart disease.
You may not be overeating to the point of being overweight or obese. However, the AGEs that accumulate in the body as we age can increase a person's risk of metabolic disorders, especially insulin resistence and type 2 diabetes.
The Science Behind AGEs
AGEs are proteins that, when exposed to sugars, combine with them in a process called glycation. Glycated proteins can cause complications in blood flow, hardening of arteries, and they can alter the function of cells. There couldn't be a more appropriate abbreviation for AGEs since they can also cause cells to become more susceptible to premature aging.
Thankfully, the body has a mechanism to naturally remove AGEs. However, poor eating habits can overwhelm this process.
To BBQ or Not to BBQ
Next time you plan a family reunion or other summer festivities, you may want to steer cleer of browning or charring foods. Instead of the old-fashioned barbecue, try a healthy picnic in the woods. Avoid eating meats cooked at high temperatures for long periods of time. Dry heat cooking methods increase the formation of AGEs by 10-100 times. Limit the amount of grilling, roasting and broiling you do.
According to the AGE foundation, moist heat cooking methods, such as steaming, simmering, and braising or using a slow cooker are best for keeping AGE levels to a minimum. A research study published in Diabetes Care found that overweight women who eat boiled or steamed food had fewer signs of insulin resistance compared to those who ate food cooked at high temperatures.
Try to use shorter cooking times and lower temperatures. According to the AGE foundation, you're better off cooking your food for an extra minute or two on medium-heat instead of using high heat. Avoid processed meats since these meats have already been prepared at high cooking temperatures to increase shelf life.
While cutting back on foods that can have AGEs is helpful, it's also important to eat plenty of foods naturally low in them. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants that can help undo some of the damage caused by AGEs. Fruits and vegetables contain a plant chemical called iridoids that are especially effective in lowering AGEs in the body. Iridoids are found in deeply colored blueberries, cranberries, and the noni fruit. Other foods low in AGEs include whole grains and seafood.
Tradition is Tradition
If you decide to grill anyways, try to do so less frequently. Marinade your meets in an acidic marinade, including ingredients such as lemon or citrus fruit juice and vinegar.