Summer is in full swing, and grills everywhere are fired up for dinner parties and outdoor social events. While some consider the grill to be a meat-only zone, a wide variety of plants can be deliciously prepared on the grill, and still maintain many of their health benefits.
Research suggests that traditional grilled cuisine—red meat, poultry and seafood, may actually release carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that damage our DNA. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, consumption of HCAs are linked to cancers of the colon and stomach. Good news for veggie lovers, grilling vegetables and fruits produces no HCA. Plant-based foods are associated with lower cancer risk. This is potentially due to the powerful phytonutrients found in plants that may counter the effect of HCAs.
However, it doesn’t mean that we should completely char our veggies on the ‘cue. Lower temperatures and less grill time are always better for maximum nutrient retention and optimal digestion.
Here are 7 helpful tips for healthy (and mouthwatering!) grilled plant-based foods this summer:
1. Make sure the grill is completely clean before adding the veggies. Our favorite trick is to rub half a lemon over the grates to remove any excess residue.
2. Avoid grilling directly over the flame. To prevent burning, place vegetables on high heat temporarily, then move to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.
3. Instead of using olive oil, try avocado oil or coconut oil to lightly coat your veggies. These oils have a higher smoke point and will not become rancid under the intense heat. Save the EVOO for your accompanying raw salad dressing.
4. In addition to, or in lieu of, a brush of oil, create a marinade using antioxidant-rich ingredients for additional health benefits. Some of our faves include lemon juice, anti-inflammatory garlic, and fresh herbs like rosemary and parsley. Don’t forget a dash of metabolism-boosting cayenne pepper!
5. No need to peel hearty root veggies such as beets, sweet potatoes and squash. Slow cook them directly on the grates in their whole form, or slice into ¾ inch wedges for a quicker grill time.
6. We’ve all tasted barbeque staples such as zucchini, asparagus and eggplant, but even dark, leafy greens can make an appearance on your grill. You can “steam” greens such as kale and Swiss chard by placing them with herbs, spices, and oil in a packet of folded parchment paper. Cover the parchment paper with aluminum foil, and the veggies will cook seamlessly away from direct heat—preventing nutrient loss. Instant “Big Grilled Kale Salad!”
7. For a guilt-free indulgence this summer, grill firm, semi-ripe fruits such as watermelon, bananas, pineapple and peaches on low heat. Brush with a touch of coconut oil to prevent the fruit from sticking to the grates, and be sure to keep a watchful eye, as they’ll be ready for devouring in no time. We like to add a scoop of our Coconut Yogurt to craft an extra-special treat for a warm summer evening.