Summer smells of many things, including barbecue. Contrary to popular belief, “ barbecue is a healthy and simple culinary technique since it is not necessary to add oils, fats or sugars to prepare food. However, depending on the type of food we prepare (and the addition of sauces for dressing and other accessories), it can become a more or less healthy barbecue ”. This is stated by Estefanía Ramo López, a graduate in Nutrition and Dietetics and a graduate in Food Technology who works at the European Medical Institute for Obesity (IMEO) .
Bouquet offers these recommendations for the barbecue is healthier:
Correct choice of food to prepare. They will try to avoid those meats or fish with a high fat content, especially if it is saturated fat. Mono and polyunsaturated fat (especially omega 3 fatty acids ) will be prioritized for their beneficial effects on health.
For example, hamburger meats made from lean beef or semi-fat pork, Iberian pork, chicken wings, beef tenderloin, beef steak, salmon, sardines, mackerel or tuna are preferred.
The fiber intake will also be assessed in the case of vegetables and cereals and that their glycemic load is not very high (in the latter case we refer to the amount of fructose provided by the food). They are preferable, among others: zucchini,calçot , cherry tomato, red and green peppers or wild asparagus.
Run away from commercial sauces. In this case, it is recommended to avoid commercial sauces, especially due to their high content of added sugars, salt, fat, as well as some flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate. If you want to give a touch of flavor to the food prepared on the barbecue, you can prepare very healthy homemade sauces that do not involve excessive extra calories. Three examples: –
Chopped garlic plus parsley, extra virgin olive oil and a dash of natural lemon.
-Crushed natural tomato.
-Skimmed protein yogurt plus curry and turmeric.
Avoid very caloric supplements or extras. Avoid “overloading” the chosen barbecue menu with certain “extras or appetizers” that will only provide the body with calories that come from sugars, saturated fats and salt, such as: French fries or other similar snacks, cheeses and fatty cold cuts would be some.
It can be complemented with certain dishes that are recommended to be placed in the center of the table for all diners to share: light salads based on raw vegetables seasoned with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil + vinegar or lemon, gazpacho (preferably without bread in the grinding), pickles in vinegar such as gherkins or chives or some natural canned cockles, razor clams or mussels would be good examples.
What to buy for the barbecue
These are some of the doubts that may appear when organizing a barbecue:
Among pork, beef, chicken or lamb, which one should we choose if we want to think about our health?
“Preferably for a meat with a lower fat content, as is the case of chicken and some parts of the pork such as the center, lizard or sirloin. Veal is also a healthy option if you choose lean parts, but always without abusing its consumption as it is red meat. Lamb, on the other hand, has a higher fat content and we must consume it occasionally ”, indicates Inmaculada Luengo, dietician-nutritionist at IMEO.
What total amount of meat per person is recommended?
“The established meat rations are 125-150 grams per person maximum. We will also eat other foods during these celebrations. Meat is one of the most satisfying foods, so we should not eat too much since it can generate heavy digestions for the rest of the day ”, explains Luengo.
Is preparing some fish or seafood on the barbecue a good idea?
In Ramo’s words, it is a good healthy option, both for the aforementioned fish -all of them blue-, as well as for some seafood such as prawns, lobsters, crayfish or octopus, as it is a simple technique.
What vegetables are good on the grill?
Some vegetables, as mentioned above, can also be prepared on the barbecue. “The most suitable in this case would be those with a firm texture that withstand high temperatures and those leafy vegetables are not recommended, mainly. Some examples would be: zucchini, pumpkin, calçot , cherry tomatoes, red and green peppers or wild asparagus. You can also prepare some cereals such as corn on the cob ”, Ramo lists.
Sins that are often committed at barbecues
At barbecues you usually eat more than necessary. How to control yourself? Ramo confirms that, generally, more food is eaten at barbecue lunches and dinners and there is a tendency to prepare more food. For this reason, it recommends that the amount of food to be prepared is in accordance with the number of diners, to avoid overgrowth and temptations to eat more.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t come to those barbecue lunches or dinners on an “empty stomach.” It would be worth with a small previous intake (mid-morning or snack, depending on the case).
Finally, a good option to control the amount of food we eat on the barbecue would be to accompany our plate with some small starters in the center of the table to share with all the diners: light salads made from raw vegetables seasoned with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon; gazpacho (preferably without bread in the shredded one); pickles in vinegar, such as pickles or chives; or some natural canned cockles, razor clams or mussels.
You don’t have to go overboard with the added salt . According to Ramo, salt is necessary for the proper functioning of the body, but consumed in excess is one of the main causes of high blood pressure , which can cause stroke, heart failure and heart attack. On the other hand, excessive consumption of salt can hinder the function of the kidneys, decrease the amount of calcium in the body, increase fluid retention, promote some types of tumors, complicate the function of the respiratory system and promote overweight and obesity .
As in the rest of culinary techniques, it is advisable not to overdo it when adding salt to food. It would be enough with a pinch of salt (better if it is iodized) and, complement with spices, herbs and condiments to give more flavor to the food (garlic, parsley, pepper, rosemary, Provencal herbs, dill, turmeric, etc.).
What about desserts and drinks? “You can consider healthy desserts such as seasonal fruit. Even making homemade fruit ice creams or directly freezing the fruit to give us that freshness . This way we will avoid desserts with added sugars or ice creams rich in saturated fat, ”says Luengo.
With regard to beverages, says this nutritionist, “it is always a good option to make our own refreshing drinks with leaves, mint, basil or spearmint, some citrus and ice in abundance. Alcohol consumption should be moderate and more in barbecues, since we are exposed to high temperatures and could make us feel bad ”.
Risks with embers
Luengo recalls that “you have to be careful when cleaning the barbecues. Make sure that there is no residue from the last time it was used. When we are with the food on the grill, try that the coal touches the food as little as possible (especially when the embers are aired), because otherwise we will be consuming coal ”.
For Ramo, from the point of view of food safety, “it is very important to know the compounds harmful to health that can be formed when cooking some foods on the barbecue. These are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) ”. According to the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aecosan) , PAHs “are a group of different chemical substances that are formed mainly during the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as coal (in the case of barbecues), as well as other substances organic (meat prepared on the barbecue). They are generally found as a mixture of two or more of these compounds ”.
The PAHs present in food come from heating them in the case of barbecues. In general, they can cause irritating effects on contact with the skin and eyes , respiratory failure when inhaled and affect the nervous system. In the long term, if ingested, they can cause clotting and immune system problems due to a reduction in platelets and white blood cells, respectively. In addition, there are studies that confirm that some PAHs can cause cancer in experimental animals or even in humans, such as benzopyrene, which has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a human carcinogen.
It is not possible to establish a tolerable daily intake for PAHs due to the carcinogenic effects that can be attributed to these compounds. Cereals and fish are the main foods that contribute to the total dietary exposure among population groups. Foods high in fat and protein prepared on the grill (barbecues) also contribute to this exposure .
At home, it is recommended not to abuse cooking techniques that contribute to the production of PAHs in food, such as grilling and barbecue of meat, fish and seafood.
Tips to take advantage of the leftovers from the ‘BBQ’
“We can take advantage of the meat leftovers to combine them with some vegetables and complete our dishes afterwards . Some options can be green beans, spinach, broccoli, etc., or even incorporate the meat in our salads and thus we will have our protein ration with a different flavor and touch ”, says Luengo.