Cooking meat over high heat can increase the amount of “advanced glycation end products” or AGEs. High consumption of AGEs can lead to increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which contributes to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fortunately, marinating meats in a delicious mixture utilizing an acidic substance such as wine, vinegar or citrus juice can significantly reduce the formation of harmful AGEs. For example, beef marinated for an hour in a mixture of lemon juice and vinegar will produce fewer than half the AGEs when cooked compared to non-marinated meat.
Three rules to follow when marinating:
- Use an acidic ingredient to tenderize the meat: lemon or lime juice, vinegar, wine or yogurt.
- Add flavor with herbs, spices, citrus zest, fruit, garlic, or onions.
- Allow enough time or the marinade to work its magic. Optimal time is to marinate overnight but if you’re short on time at least an hour.
In general, the best label terms to look for would be Organic and Pastured, or 100% grass fed.
- Grass-fed and pastured meats contain more Omega-3 fatty acids and less of the inflammatory Omega 6’s.
- The certified USDA organic seal is once again an overall good guarantee that the meat and dairy have been raised in a humane and nontoxic environment.
In addition to reading food labels, you should also consider the source of the meat you purchase. Whenever possible, try to buy locally-sourced meat from farmers markets or butcher shops.
- “Local” is no guarantee of quality however, so be sure to ask the farmer how the animals were raised and slaughtered.
- If you buy meat at your local grocer, read the labels carefully and choose the highest quality meat you can afford.
In summary, when you do eat meat, remember to follow these healthy tips:
- Limit factory farmed red meat and processed meats. More research on the impact of grass-fed meats and cancer is needed.
- Pair your meat dishes with vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains.
- Know the source of your food and buy locally.
- When local meat is not a choice, look for USDA certified organic meats.
- Minimize the formation of carcinogens such as HCAs (heterocyclic amines) by using acidic marinades that include citrus juices which have been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs when grilling.
- You can also precook meats in the microwave, cook thin portions to speed cooking, and avoid well-done meats to limit grill time.