5 Things to Ban From Your Next Barbecue

Cookouts are a great source of summertime fun. But they can also be a source of cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Luckily, you can greatly reduce your exposure by making some simple changes in the food you cook, and how you cook, serve and store it.

Now you may be thinking, geez, I have to worry about toxins at my next cookout? Yep. Reducing your exposure to toxins is a lifestyle choice, like healthy eating and exercise. And every day you come into contact with numerous toxins and ample opportunities to avoid them. So here's a list of 5 ways to do that at your next barbecue.

1. Charcoal Lighter Fluid

If you rely on lighter fluid to start your charcoal grill, it’s time to stop. Lighter fluid is made from petroleum. Inhaling lighter fluid vapors can irritate your nose throat and respiratory tract. Breathing in high concentrations of vapors may cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, headaches, and/or unconsciousness.

Plus, people who are serious about grilling will tell you that you end up with food coated in petroleum chemicals.

  • A simple solution is to use a chimney. Chimneys are cheap and easy to use. Just put newspaper in the bottom, add charcoal and light with a match.

2. Plastic Water Bottles

Plastic Beverage bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic known to leach several types of endocrine disrupters into food and water. Numerous studies have documented the leaching of plastic chemicals from PET bottles into water and soda. This leaching increases with sun exposure and temperature, the kind you'd find on a warm summer day, and storage time.

  •  Instead of plastic water bottles at your next cookout, try fruit-infused filtered waterI like to pour filtered water into a pretty glass pitcher and add organic lemon slices and strawberries. Do this a day ahead of your feast for the best flavor.

3. Plastic Food Storage Containers and Wraps

Plastic food storage containers, bags and wraps, even those considered BPA-free, are known to release synthetic estrogens. It’s time to think outside the plastic box, and bag.

  • Replacing your plastic containers with glass is one of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure to synthetic estrogen. Canning jars and glass bowls with lids are great options.
  • Swap out plastic storage bags and wraps for safer alternatives like:

Reusable Cloth Bags
Look for bags made with organic cotton and avoid the ones with plastic linings.

Abeego wraps infused with beeswax.
At room temperature they are malleable to cover bowls or wrap snacks and sandwiches.

Unbleached parchment paper
Great for wrapping foods that need to breath, like cheese.

Butcher paper
This simple brown paper, waxed on one side, is great for wrapping meats.

4. Styrofoam Plates and Cups

Styrofoam plates and cups are made from styrene, a known carcinogen.  Low levels of styrene has been shown to leach from disposable items, especially when exposed to heat.

Styrene exposure has been linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and cancer of the esophagus and pancreas. Long-term exposure may cause brain disease, liver damage, nerve tissue damage, effects on kidney function, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system, impaired hearing, altered color vision, and reproductive effects.

  • Opt for unbleached disposable paper plates and cups. A newer safe alternative are plates and cups made from wheat fibers. You can find them on Amazon.

5. HCAs and PAHs

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs)are carcinogens formed when you cook meat at high temperatures.

  • HCAs are found in the burnt part of charred meat and fish. So if you like your barbequed meat well done, remove any charred portions.
  • PAHs are formed in foods prepared by smoking or grilling/barbecuing. When you cook meat over an open flame, fat and meat juices often drip onto the fire. This contaminates the flames with many PaHs that coat the surface of the food you’re grilling. The best way to reduce your exposure to PAHs is to keep fat and juices from dripping on to your hot coals.

Happy Healthy Grilling!

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