Healthy Grilling Tips

Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) are what the Art of Grilling is NOT about! These carcinogenic compounds form when proteins, sugars, and creatine in meat react at high temperatures, but the upside is—we have some great good4u tips to help reduce their formation. We want you to showcase your skills at the grill in the most mouthwatering style while keeping your menu rooted in health!

The art of grilling demands finesse

Temperature, time, and even how often you wield the spatula matters. Healthier burgers aren’t flame-broiled or well done—they’re cooked at lower temps, flipped frequently, and served without charred black edges. Once temps begin to reach 400°F, HCA formation increases, and well-done meat has significantly more of them, so keep it low and juicy.


Beer aficionados, this one’s for you!

A 2015 study tested the effect of three types of beer— pilsner, non-alcoholic pilsner, and dark beer— used as marinades on the formation of HCAs in charcoal-grilled pork, compared to pork that has not been marinated. While all three beers resulted in a significant decrease in HCAs, the dark beer was most effective, resulting in 90% less HCAs forming compared to the non-marinated pork. A previous study found similar results with beer and beef.

Did you know Natural Grocers sells organic beer and wine? Check out our stores with beer and wine sections to stock up on healthier indulgences!


The final step in mastering the art of healthy grilling

is to pair your meat entrée with sides and condiments that can minimize the harmful effects of HCAs in your body. One exceptional way to do this is to include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt to your meals with grilled meat (a burger topped with sauerkraut or kimchi? Yes, please!). Beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods, such as Lactobacilli and Streptococcus thermophiles, have been shown to bind to HCAs in the intestines and inhibit their absorption.


Cruciferous vegetables

like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale contain compounds that specifically inhibit the toxicity associated with HCAs during the body’s detoxification process. In vitro studies have shown that green tea, red wine, blueberries, blackberries, red grapes, watermelon, and spinach can also protect against the toxicity of certain HCAs.