Become a grill master the healthy way

Everyone loves to fire up the grill and charbroil some meat. But did you know that those delicious, blackened bits are actually causing free radical damage to your cells? When sugars react with proteins and fats during cooking, they create Advanced Glycation End products or AGEs.  This reaction is also known as the Millard or browning reaction. AGEs are naturally present in food, and they also develop inside our body during normal metabolism.(1) However, excess AGEs in the diet from high heat cooking can contribute to inflammation and the development of cardiovascular diseases.(1-2) 

Cooking meat slowly and on low heat, like when it’s poached, is the best way to prevent the formation of AGEs.(2) However, warm weather brings BBQs and picnics, and out comes the grill. So how would you prevent AGEs while grilling? You could try grilling more foods that are naturally lower in AGEs such as vegetables or bean burgers. Anyone for grilled zucchini or asparagus? 

If you can’t say no to your grilled meat, there’s still hope. Marinating meat in citrus or vinegar can reduce the formation of AGEs.(2) Utilizing spices and seasonings rich in antioxidants, too. (3) Avoiding sugary sauces, such as BBQ sauces or applying them at the end of cooking versus during cooking can prevent the sugars from browning and forming harmful reactions. Lastly, avoid blackening, charring, and cooking your meat well done.

The next time you’re grilling try one of my favorite marinades for chicken:

  • 1/2 cup (or more if you like) chopped Cilantro
  • Lime zest
  • 3 Tbs Lime juice
  • 1-2 Tbs Olive oil 
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 Tsp Cheyenne pepper (optional spice)
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
  • Mix it together and marinate chicken breast in a sealed container for 2 hours

Not a fan of cilantro try this delicious Argentinian-Style Chimichurri Sauce from the Spruce Eats. Delicious with or without the cilantro, simply replace the cilantro with more parsley. It works great as a marinade for steaks. Be sure to set aside a little extra before adding the raw meat so you can use it as a drizzle after cooking. 

Remember eating a balance of fresh veggies and whole grains along with your grilled meat can reduce the overall consumption of high-reactive foods in your diet. It’s always about balance. If today you’re eating a burger, have a side salad versus fried or fatty foods. Then tomorrow have grilled veggie kabobs and a side of whole grains. Mix in a variety of antioxidants for positive effects, and you’re on your way towards a healthy lifestyle. Summer is a foodies adventure, get out and try new food! 


1. Uttara B, Singh A V, Zamboni P, Mahajan RT. Oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases: a review of upstream and downstream antioxidant therapeutic options. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2009;7(1):65-74. doi:10.2174/157015909787602823.

2. Uribarri J, Woodruff S, Goodman S, et al. Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911-916.e12. 

3. Alizadeh M, Kheirouri S. Curcumin against advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and AGEs-induced detrimental agents. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(7):1169-1177. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1396200. Epub 2017 Nov 29. PMID: 29185795.

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