How to Roast Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
April 2, 2017 – 4:40 pm | Comments Off on How to Roast Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

I’ll be the first to confess that elaborate mushrooms scare me a bit. The otherworldliness of enokis, the meatiness of King Trumpet stalks, the sponge-like texture of Lion’s Manes.
But I’ve been served Hen of the …

Read the full story »
GFF (Gluten-free friendly)

Stuff of interest to people on a gluten-free diet

Foods you’re probably not eating but totally should be

Nutritious ideas for expanding your foodscape

No lactose? No problem.

Lactose-free foods and recipes for the digestively-challenged

Beans, Peas & Such

All about legumes

GF Bread-like Things

Recipes for gluten free breads, rolls, doughs and other such foods

Home » GFF (Gluten-free friendly), Healthy supermarket picks

Throw another Cherry Burger on the barbie

Submitted by on May 22, 2009 – 10:05 pmNo Comment



Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and at the risk of being the downer who sucks all the fun out of grilling season, I decided to go ahead and offer some thoughts on how to minimize the health risks that can be associated with those (admittedly yummy) charred meats.  (I know, I know, you pity the people who invited me to their barbeque this weekend.  I promise, I’m much better behaved in person…)

The ABCs of HCAs

While we’ve been trained to think of grilling as a healthy way of cooking, there’s always a catch.  In this case, the catch comes with a spiffy acronym: HCAs (Heterocyclic Amines).  HCAs are carcinogenic (cancer-initiating) compounds that are produced from natural amino acids in meat and poultry when they are cooked at high temperatures.  While any form of cooking can produce HCAs, grills can reach such high temperatures compared to, say, ovens, that there’s a greater risk associated with this form of cooking in particular.  While you want to make sure to cook your meat/poultry thoroughly enough so that it’s safe (especially burgers), it’s nevertheless advisable to avoid charring meats.  Now just to put this into perspective, there’s no reason to be overly concerned if you’re eating grilled meats at the occasional ‘cue; your body has natural, built-in mechanisms to neutralize HCAs (and other such toxic compounds).  But there is enough research to suggest that the link between higher consumption of well-done meats and increased incidence of cancer–particularly breast and colon– is real and non-trivial.  So if your diet does routinely include grilled meats more than just once or twice per week–particularly well-done grilled meats– then you may want to consider taking some measures to reduce the levels of HCAs that are created when you cook.  And fortunately, there are plenty of them.

Tips for improving the safety of grilled meats

To learn more about HCAs and to get some simple steps you can take to minimize them as you prep and cook your meats, you can check out this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  In addition, there was a great post on the Healthy Eats blog this week with even more easy tips for reducing the amount of HCAs produced when grilling meats.  Simple things like marinating your meat (particularly with certain ingredients) and turning it often while cooking can reduce the levels of these pesky carcinogens without cramping your style… so be sure to check out the links above to get the full story.

Additionally, there is some research out of Michigan State University that suggests adding antioxidant-rich fruits, like cherries, to your burgers, may reduce the carcinogen load by up to 80-90%!  (If you think this was a strange hypothesis to even come up with to test, perhaps you wont be surprised to hear that the research was sponsored by the Michigan Agricultural Experimental Station–yes, Michigan is a major cherry-growing state.  Still, I read the original study and it appears legit.  Also, there are other studies that show similar effects from both cherries and other antioxidant-rich foods.)  So let’s put our cynicism aside for a moment and declare how serendipitous it was that these (gluten-free) recipes for cherry-and-other-fruit-infused burgers landed in my inbox the other day from Vital Juice Daily!  Apparently, it’s quite a craze. Eating Well magazine featured a different recipe for Cherry Burgers in their March/April issue, but theirs uses breadcrumbs so it’s not gluten-free.  (Unless you use gluten-free breadcrumbs, of course.)  Note that the MSU study showed the benefit in HCA reduction from replacing ~12% of the meat in the burger patty with cherry mush.   Sound odd?  C’mon… is it really any stranger than cherry-flavored cola?  The word is that you don’t even taste the blueberries in the blueberry burger recipe– and the berries add a ton of moisture to boot.  And who’s going to argue with Oprah when she claims the apple-infused Turkey Burger is to-die for?  Try it… you might like it!  

Are some grilled foods safer than others?

HCAs are not much of a concern when grilling seafood, vegetables or other plant-based foods, like veggie burgers.  Of course, most commercial veggie burgers are perilous in their own right: Boca Burgers, Morningstar Farms burgers and Gardenburgers all contain wheat/gluten, which is probably for the better, since it gives us an excuse to steer clear of them.  (They’re so ultra-processed.)  I’m still on a quest for the perfect home-made, gluten-free, soy-free veggie burger recipe (stay tuned for an upcoming post), but until that time, the healthiest store-bought GF, soy-free veggie-burgers I’ve come across are Sunshine Burgers.  These vegan burgers, which can be found in the freezer section of an increasing number of grocery stores, are sunflower seed, rice and bean-based.  You’ll recognize every ingredient listed on the nutrition facts label since they’re 100% natural and are minimally-processed.  Now, don’t panic when you see that each burger has 240 calories–or twice the amount of a processed, gluteny-soy-burger.  Sunflower seeds are naturally high in fat, but it’s almost entirely healthy, monounsaturated fat.  Besides, each burger has a hefty 9g of fiber, or about 1/3 of a woman’s daily need.  And really, 240 calories is very reasonable for an entree, especially when you can’t even eat the bun and you’re having watermelon for dessert.  

And of course, of you get jealous of your cherry-burger eating carnivorous friends, you can always top off your Sunshine Burger with a dollop of homemade Cherry Ketchup

Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it,
tell a friend
about it, and subscribe to the blog RSS feed.

Comments are closed.