Mmm. There’s nothing like grilling over the barbecue on a gorgeous summer day. Serving up some sizzling burgers and sausages to enjoy with family and friends is one of the best ways to bring people together to share delicious food.
Whether you are gathered around a picnic table or sitting on the grassy lawn, there is something about grilling that enhances the flavor of food and just makes it taste better.
Barbequing comes with some health concerns though, especially if histamine is an issue for you. Let's get to it, and offer some solutions to help you through the upcoming warmer season!
Health Concerns of BBQing
Cooking over a hot open flame creates two carcinogens: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies indicate that these may increase the risk of cancer (1).
HCAs are formed when amino acids in meat react with high heat. The longer the meat is cooked, the more HCAs there will be. An animal study showed that exposure to HCAs can increase the number of mast cells (2).
PAHs are formed with exposure to smoke from the flames, and when the fat on the meat burns. PAHs have also been shown to affect mast cell degranulation and induce the release of chemical mediators, of which histamine is one. (3)
And sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but grilling meat also increases the histamine content of that meat. (4) We share all of this information because we want you to be informed!
Firing up that barbecue may not seem as idyllic for those struggling with histamine and mast cell issues, but we’ve got some great tips for you. Read on!
Healthy BBQ Tips
The good news is that you can take steps to reduce all three of these compounds. Doing this will go towards reducing what's driving your symptoms.
Start by choosing less processed cuts of meat to keep histamine levels low. Pork chops, lamb chops, or pieces of chicken or turkey breast are great lower histamine options. Feel like your symptoms are in a current flare? Consider taking the skin off of your chicken pieces before putting on the BBQ.
Ground meat and sausage tend to be higher in histamine, so save these for when you have made progress in your symptoms. These are great for Stage 2 of the Histamine Haven Protocol. Ground turkey, pork, or lamb are all delicious lower histamine choices for a juicy burger when your symptoms have reduced.
Reduce direct exposure to flames—use indirect grilling instead. Have flames on either side of your BBQ and food in the middle where it can cook without encountering flames. For smaller BBQs, have the flames on one side and the meat on the other, and rotate your meat for more even cooking.
Reduce cooking time by choosing smaller cuts—this will reduce the formation of all three compounds. Choose chops that are small or thin, or chop meat into bite-sized pieces and put it onto skewers. You can get stainless steel skewers like these or inexpensive bamboo ones like these. If you react to nickel, stick with the bamboo ones.
Avoid wrapping meat or vegetables in aluminum foil. Aluminum is a heavy metal and can trigger mast cells to release histamine (5). Instead, buy a stainless-steel grill basket like one of these. Choose one WITHOUT a non-stick coating, as this will reduce some of what may be contributing to your toxin load, and therefore hampering your ability to clear spent histamine. These are great for spatchcock chicken and low histamine vegetables. If you react to nickel, use bamboo skewers instead.
Sauces Make Things Even Better
Flavor enhancing foods like onions and fresh herbs inhibit the production of HCAs and PAHs. (6). Make sure to add some in the side dishes that will accompany your BBQ meats!
Try topping your fresh BBQ'd meat with chimichurri or pesto before throwing it on the grill for a punch of flavour and those inhibitory compounds in the fresh herbs. We have enticing low histamine recipes for both sauces in our book Histamine Haven: the essential guide and cookbook to histamine and mast cell activation.
Cherries can inhibit this too. Our book also has a savoury Apple Cherry BBQ Sauce that you’ll love. Slather it on, and you'll be going that extra mile!
BBQ Safely For Histamine and Mast Cell Management
By following our BBQ tips and adding delectable low histamine sauces, you can enjoy flavourful outdoor meals with family and friends this summer. You don’t have to miss out!
Don’t have a copy of our book yet? Get it here: