With warmer weather finally (maybe! Almost?) on the horizon, grilling out may be on your mind. Whether you’re following a specific diet or simply enjoy cooking and dining al fresco, the appeal of easily prepared meat with that distinctive “char” on the outside is one of the main draws grilling as a cooking method. Easy, healthy, delicious – right?
A different kind of “age” – what are AGEs?
Probably the last thing in your mind is something called “advanced glycation end products,” or AGEs for short. Yet I see many clients who ask what they can do to reduce their risk for chronic diseases; yet trying to make sense of all the dietary advice out there today – should they not eat meat? Eat more meat? Eat more fat like in keto? While I don’t believe there is one perfect diet for every individual, research and my experience do support some nearly universal principles, number 1: eat your vegetables and number 2: reduce your AGE exposure.
Now what are AGEs?AGEs are formed by a reaction between sugars and fats or proteins. They are formed as part of the body’s normal metabolism, but excessive amounts can lead to inflammation, increasing your risk for disease. So, what does that have to do with your cookout plans? Well, AGEs are increased by cooking meats over dry heat – like a grill. Those yummy brown or crispy parts? Are formed by something called the Maillard reaction and can signal increased health risks, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, due to increased oxidative stress and inflammation. They’ve even been implicated in cognitive impairment and conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.
What can you do to reduce AGEs?
Since my goal is to help people enjoy food and not fixate on what they can’t or shouldn’t eat, here are a few tips to help you enjoy those cookouts safely and also balances out their impact by eating low-AGE producing meals generally:
- Choose leaner cuts of meat to grill.
- Marinate meat for at least an hour in marinades containing citrus juice and / or vinegar. This can cut AGE formation in half!
- Make sure to add skewers of veggies, fruit, or corn to your grill and fill your plate with these – since plant-based foods are far lower in AGEs.
- Anti-oxidant containing foods like fruits and vegetables can also help your body to counter oxidative stress, so those veggie skewers help in multiple ways.
Other tips for when you’re not at the cookout:
- Enjoy more raw, seasonal foods. Raw veggies and fruit contain few AGEs!
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible, as these can contain more AGEs.
- Use safer, moist heat cooking methods, like poaching and steaming.
- Cook “low and slow” – cooking longer, at lower heat levels, generates fewer AGEs. And crockpot or pressure cooking methods are easy, too!
Want to learn more? Sign up to receive your free e-book on the pillars of eating for health, deliciously. And if you need an individualized approach, please check out our services and let us know how we can help! Either way, my goal is to help you learn to enjoy better health, faster.
Sharon Price, M. S. Nutrition