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Why You Should Marinate Your Meat Before You Grill

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Summer is in full swing, which means you’re probably getting your outdoor grills going while you’re cooking up some of your favorite grills. We all know that grilling meat, fish or poultry depends on the marinade. You might think that the sole purpose of marinating your meat before cooking it is to enhance the flavor, but there are actually health benefits associated with marinating your meat that go beyond satisfying your taste buds.

So here’s what you know. A marinade serves as a tenderizer and brings out the natural flavors of the meat before grilling. What you may not know is that marinating is one of the most effective ways to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These compounds form when meat is cooked at high temperatures, such as when grilling. Marinades can reduce the formation of these carcinogenic compounds by up to 99%. You can even enhance this benefit by adding rosemary to your marinade. This herb contains the antioxidant carnosol, which has some specific anti-cancer properties.

Although it is unclear why marinating meat before grilling effectively eliminates HCAs, it is believed that the marinade acts as a barrier between the meat and the direct flames. The cancer-fighting power of marinades may also lie in the types of ingredients used. Vinegar, citrus juices, herbs, spices, olive oil, and safflower oil are common marinade ingredients that all seem to help prevent HCA build-up. These acidic ingredients appear to slow the growth of harmful bacteria like listeria, tenderize the meat to make the protein easy to digest, and moisturize the meat so it doesn’t become tough.

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If you’re someone who never uses marinades, start now! Eating healthy doesn’t mean your food has to be tasteless and bland, especially now that you know that marinades do great things for your health. There are endless ingredients that can be used to create healthy and tasty marinades for any type of meat, fish or poultry. Start making the perfect marinade by first knowing the basic ingredients:

1 part acid (vinegar, citrus juice, yogurt)

1 part oil (olive, canola, safflower)

2 parts flavorings (herbs and spices)

Salt and sugar to taste (can be substituted with low-sodium soy sauce and/or honey)

This is a ratio you can always refer to when creating your marinade. To keep the calorie count down and avoid leftover marinade, only use about ½ cup of marinade for every pound of food, unless you have large pieces that may need a little more. Full immersion isn’t necessary, but food should be turned occasionally so all surfaces are in contact with the marinade long enough to benefit. Use non-metal containers or resealable plastic bags to store the marinated food. You can also marinate your veggies to add extra flavor. In this case, always make sure to keep the vegetable marinade separate from the meat marinade to avoid cross-contamination with bacteria. Also, remember that when making skewers, leave veggies on their own skewer, as meat usually takes longer to cook.

There’s never been a more delicious way to avoid cancerous compounds than marinating. There are no limits when it comes to creating a tasty marinade. So get creative! Use a variety of herbs and spices to add natural flavor to your marinade. Yoghurt in a marinade is said to tenderize meat and help balance sweet and tangy flavors in marinades. While it’s best to use herbs and spices, if you’re adding salt to your marinade, add it just before you’re ready to cook the meat, as the salt will draw out the moisture, creating tough, dry meat.

Thanks to Bonnie R Giller

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