Grilling, Health, Health Food, Healthy, Healthy Fats, Holistic, Meat, Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy, Organic, Summer, Vegetables, Wellness

To Grill or Grill Not…

Beef steak with grilled vegetables

By Cynthia Hill, NTP

As the first hint of summer makes its slow arrival in the Midwest,  I step outside late afternoon to enjoy the warming temps.  Immediately I begin to smell the most wonderful intoxicating scent.  It takes my brain a moment to identify what it is – oh yes! someone in the neighborhood has fired up their grill  – the  unmistakable smoky aroma of backyard grilling, summer and happiness! I realize momentarily how I have missed the smell & taste of grilled foods throughout the long winter months. Now this tantalizing scent beckons me, beckons me to release our own grill from its winter cover and  start planning a meal around it.   But wait… isn’t grilling food bad for you???

Grilling in general and especially grilled meat has had its share of bad press lately.  With the onset of warmer weather the warnings about the dangers of grilling and barbecuing return, and how doing so contributes to the formation of carcinogens (PAHs) and mutagens (HCA) in our food.

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are present in the smoke created from fat dripping onto hot coals.  Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when amino acids, sugars and creatine in meat react with heat.  Does grilling generate enough of these carcinogenic compounds to pose a threat to our health and steer clear of the grill forever?  Mark Sisson, primal living expert, and author of the Primal Blueprint writes he may have “overstated the danger of the carcinogenic compounds found in charred meat”.  In his article “How Bad is Charred Meat, Really?”  he references numerous studies that show the doses of HCA in animal testing to be 1000s of times higher than what we would get from grilling. (The National Cancer Institute also suggests that both HCA and PAH dosing in animal models is thousands of times higher than what we would consume in our diet).

Author Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, “The Naughty Nutritionist” states “it’s a myth that HCAs are mostly found in fried or grilled beef, poultry and fish.”  Her post “Barbecue Meat a Safer Choice than Packaged Protein Foods” explains why we are more likely to get more carcinogenic HCAs from processed and fast foods than from the grill.

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This leaves me with a burning question from an ancestral point of view – man has been grilling for a very very long time.  If it is so bad for us, why do the carcinogenic effects only appear to have happened in the last 150 years?  We must consider our current diet of high PUFAs, processed foods, grain fed animals and environmental toxicity as contributing factors.

Would I eat grilled foods every day? probably not as with most things moderation is key. I will continue though, to eat a cancer fighting nutrient dense whole foods diet (including plenty of protective vegetables) that supports optimal health and immune function which is always our best defense!

The following suggestions from the The National Cancer Institute may reduce HCA and PAH formation while grilling:

  • Avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times (especially at high temps) can redue HCA and PHA formation.
  • Continuously turning meat over on a high heat source can substantially reduce HCA formation compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often.
  • Removing charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings.

 

Trimming the fat, and using marinades with herbs/spices and an acid component  like vinegar or citrus offers protection also.

Avoid overcooking and processed meats as they already contain cancer causing preservative substances.

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So will I be firing up the grill this Summer?  You betcha!

 

Sincerely in Health,

Cynthia

 

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Farming, Healthy, Healthy Fats, Meat, Nutritional Therapy, Wellness

Springtime Rack of Lamb

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Spring is the perfect time to enjoy fresh lamb!  Rack of lamb makes an impressive presentation and its no fuss preparation requires little time in the kitchen.  Serve with roasted potatoes and spring peas or fresh asparagus for an elegant springtime meal.

Rack of Lamb

4 servings

 

1 Rack of Lamb (preferably grass fed)

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

2 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce or 1/2 TBL balsamic vinegar

1 Tbl. Olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 TBL. Fresh Rosemary

1 tsp. Sea salt

 

Use a food processor to process the garlic, rosemary, and sea salt until finely minced.  Add the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce (or balsamic vinegar) and olive oil and  process for 1 minute.  Alternately, finely mince rosemary and garlic and mix together with sea salt, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and olive oil.

Place the rack of lamb on a lightly greased rack (rib ends facing down) in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  Brush both sides of the lamb with the mustard mixture.  Let stand for about an hour. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Roast lamb for approximately 20 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare.  Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut roast into single ribs and serve.

 

Give thanks for all animals and plants that nourish and sustain us.

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By Cynthia Hill, NTP

 

Health, Health Food, Healthy, Healthy Fats, Holistic, Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy, Organic

Healthy Fats 101

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By Cynthia Hill, NTP

Olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, lard, tallow, butter…vegetable oils or  animal fats?  What should you choose?  What are good fats?  What are bad fats?   What are healthy? What are not?  What fats are safest to cook with and what are not?  To answer these questions let’s begin with a basic understanding of the composition and properties of fats and oils:

Fats are molecules consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fats are classified as saturated fatty acids (SFA’s), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s).  All fats are a combination of fatty acids and are classified by the highest percentage of either sat, mono or poly:

Saturated fats are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Saturated fats do not turn rancid easily even with higher temperature cooking.  Butter and coconut oil are examples of saturated fats.

Pure Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solidify at 39 degrees F.  Monounsaturated fats are  relatively stable and do not turn rancid easily.  Olive and avocado oil are examples of monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature or upon refrigeration and are highly unstable.  Polyunsaturated fats are fragile and are easily damaged by light and heat  turning rancid quickly. Vegetable oils and grape seed oil are examples of polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are broken down into two subgroups:  Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

 

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So what fats are healthy? and what fats are safe to cook with???  Animal fats and tropical oils  that are high in saturated fat – yes saturated fat!  Your body needs saturated fat to function optimally! Saturated fats are the most stable for higher temperature cooking (baking, frying, broiling, grilling, sautéing and roasting). Some excellent choices are lard, Ghee (clarified butter), beef and lamb tallow, chicken, duck & goose fat (from grass-fed/pastured/organic animals), coconut & red palm oil (organic, virgin, sustainably sourced).  Vegetables roasted in duck fat are to die for!!!

 

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Monounsaturated fats can be safely used for brief stir-frying, light sautéing,  and slow simmering over low heat.  Good choices are pure unfiltered/unrefined/uncut olive oil (contrary to popular belief, olive oil is safe for light cooking less than 400 degrees), peanut oil (occasionally as it is high in PUFA’s), avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and sesame oil. High heat cooking  may damage MUFA’s resulting in free radical damage.  Healthy monounsaturated fats support the immune system and joint health.

 

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Polyunsaturated vegetable oils including  flax, hemp, pine nut, pumpkin, grape seed oil and high oleic sunflower oil should never be heated or used in cooking  (despite what their labels may say). They should be stored in the refrigerator. Due to their high omega-6 content, these oils should be used sparingly and must be unrefined and unprocessed/cold pressed. (Which can be difficult to find).  Omega-3 rich flax oil should always be refrigerated and used sparingly in small amounts only (drizzle on salads, or in smoothies). High Oleic sunflower oil has some MUFA’s so very light heating would be acceptable.

Omega-6 liquid evening primrose, borage and black currant seed oils are highly reactive, and should never be cooked.  Use in very small amounts as in supplements only.

 

Fats I recommend AVOIDING completely:

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Vegetable oils  canola, soybean, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower and corn oil (including margarine/spreads made with them).  All of these (artery clogging  hydrogenated trans fats) oils are used in processed foods, fast food/restaurants.  They are cheap genetically modified highly processed industrial oils that have only been in the human diet for a short amount of time.  Our bodies do not recognize these oils as food and they are not fit for human consumption!  Canola oil is a marketing ploy at it’s best – touted for its omega-3 and MUFA’s it is a highly processed rancid oil, derived from the genetically modified rapeseed plant. It is often partially hydrogenated to increase stability turning the delicate omega-3 fatty acids rancid quickly (free radicals). Soybean, cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils (also gmo) go through similar processing leaving them vulnerable to oxidation and free radical production when exposed to heat and light.  Soy/Soybean oil in addition depresses thyroid function.  Processed Omega-6 vegetable oils promote inflammation in the body. Best to get your Omega-6’s from vegetables, raw nuts and seeds.

 

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I am a big fan of BUTTER!   Butter makes everything taste better and there is no reason to fear it!  Quality unprocessed real butter from grass-fed cows contains small amounts of omega -3 and omega-6’s in a healthy ratio along with Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) helpful for weight management, muscle growth and cancer protection.  Butter contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which help us absorb and assimilate minerals.  Butter also has Butyric acid which provides protection from fungal infections and tumor growth. The Arachidonic fatty acids found in butter aid in proper inflammatory and anti-inflammatory processes.   Butterfat boosts cell membrane integrity and brain function. Margarines’ fat profile is a total fail in comparison!

 

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Embrace Healthy Fats!

Fats play a very important role in our health and bodies.  Healthy fats are imperative to good health and do not make you fat. Thanks to an inaccurate study done over 50 years ago, we were led to believe that consuming  fat was bad, and that saturated fat led to high cholesterol and heart disease.  This theory has been proven to be completely false.  We are now seeing the detrimental side effects and suffering of the low fat no fat era with countless degenerative diseases. So aim for a balance of healthy fats  (sat, mono & poly) and improve your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio by consuming less polyunsaturated (vegetable oils) in processed foods and fast food/restaurants. Source fats from quality grass-fed/pastured/organic animals, and oils that are organic/unprocessed/cold pressed and unrefined. Ditch the toxic vegetable oils. Good healthy fats are the preferred fuel of the heart and provide an excellent source of long burning fuel for the body.  Fat fear not!

To learn more about healthy fats and the important role they play in our health, please visit the Weston A. Price Foundation  for additional information.

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Sources:  Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA)