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The Truth About Grilling

Grilling is a major part of any American summer, whether you are a carnivore or a vegetarian. It is an integral part to many get-togethers as well as the major summer and fall holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. But did you know that grilling can actually be harmful to your health?



Most foods have protein in them, no matter how little. This means not only your meats, but your grains and vegetables too. All of these products also contain sugars. When you grill these proteins, or even just cook them over high heat, the sugars and the proteins combine and they brown, producing what is known as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These are also accumulated in the body when one smokes tobacco products. When your body is in a state of high blood sugar, like right after eating a meal, these AGEs accumulate in the blood stream causing oxidation and inflammation. This is particularly detrimental to those with diabetes, who have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels. However, even if you don’t have diabetes, these end-products are contributed to accelerating the aging process and leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease.

So how can you avoid these substances? The longer you cook meat and the higher the temperature, the more AGEs accumulate on your food. The best way to inhibit this browning is to cook your products on a low heat for longer periods of time. While the product will be on the heat longer, the heat is lower thus allowing for less production of browning and AGEs.

If you don’t have your heart set on grilling, or for other meals that you prepare, there is an easy way to be entirely free of AGEs. These carcinogens are inhibited by water. If you boil, steam, stew, or poach your products you can be sure that they are AGE free. Another easy way to be AGE free is to eat your vegetables raw. If they aren’t cooked, they can’t produce AGEs.

Also, the products that you pick to cook can contribute to how many AGEs you put into your system. For example, pizza has approximately 6,800 kilounits of AGEs for 3.5 ounces and a baked potato has 218 kilounits for 3.5 ounces. It is estimated that the typical American diet consists of 16,000 kilounits of AGEs per day. While there isn’t an agreed upon limit of AGE intake, it is generally concluded the the fewer the better. With the knowledge that meats contain and produce more AGEs than fruits and vegetables and that some cooking methods are better than others in reducing AGE intake, you can greatly decrease this number for you and your family, leading to a healthier, and possibly longer life.

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