As July 4th approaches, many people think about hosting a barbecue at their home or in a local park. This cultural phenomenon is well-established as a meat-eaters paradise, but meat-eating hosts often struggle with what to provide for the plant-based eaters they may wish to invite. In fact, there are so many possible veg-friendly options these days that choosing what to buy can be daunting, as they just don’t know which to offer to their plant-based friends. A veg option that one person loves may not work for others.
It’s summertime. Time to light up the grill. Yes, there are endless possibilities for grilling without using meat or fish. One option is to check out this wonderful cookbook from the Book Publishing Company, which captures a wide variety of possibilities in one easy-to-use book.
Grills Gone Vegan is the latest cookbook from Tamasin Noyes. Tamasin has been vegetarian for over thirty years, and vegan for much of that time. She and her husband, Jim, live in northeastern Ohio with their two cats. Along the way, Tamasin has baked for a vegan café, worked in restaurants, created a nonprofit group that sent handmade cards to children with life-threatening illnesses, and had a vegan soap company for ten years.
Passionate about cooking, Tamasin spent several years as a cookbook tester for some of the leading vegan authors. She is also the author of American Vegan Kitchen and the coauthor of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day.
The Fourth of July is the most popular outdoor cooking holiday of the year, according to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association. Yet as Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, many are not aware that grilling some food items produces cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs, a family of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds, are produced when meats, including chicken, beef, pork, and fish, are grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.
Meat naturally contains amino acids and a protein called creatine that is found in muscle tissue. When meat is grilled, this combination of amino acids and creatine form HCAs. Creatine is found only in muscle tissue, not in plant-based foods, so vegetarian foods do not produce detectable levels of HCAs when they are grilled. At least 24 studies have now implicated HCAs in breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and cancer of the larynx, stomach, and prostate gland. In January 2005, the federal government officially added HCAs to its list of known carcinogens. Studies have shown that exposure to PhIP, one type of HCA, at levels as low as 10 to 20 nanograms per day is associated with roughly a doubling of breast cancer risk.
The Five Worst Foods to Grill
HCAs: nanograms per 100 grams
Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done
14,000 nanograms/100 grams
Steak, grilled, well done
810 nanograms/100 grams
470 nanograms/100 grams
Salmon, grilled with skin
166 nanograms/100 grams
Hamburger, grilled, well done
130 nanograms/100 grams
Veggieburger, grilled, well done
Corn, grilled, well done
Another problem comes from meat products that have preservatives, such as the nitrates and nitrites often found in hot dogs and preserved meats. These chemicals react to form nitrosamines after they are eaten. Nitrosamines are highly carcinogenic compounds and have been implicated in several forms of cancer. So skip the dogs and the salami. Add to all this the fact that animals store up and concentrate the carcinogenic chemicals they encounter such as pesticides, herbicides, PCBs and Dioxin in their tissue to levels much higher than in plant foods, and you have many good reasons to avoid meat altogether on July 4th (and every other day for that matter!)
Avid grillers need not throw away the barbecue: Grilling can provide healthful meals. Reducing exposure to carcinogens is as simple as grilling a veggie burger instead of a hamburger, or a thick portabella mushroom instead of a steak. Cooks can marinade and prepare most of these veggie options just as they would with meats.
Here are five grilling ideas for this year’s Fourth of July barbecue:
Vegetarian chicken patties
Vegetable kabobs (sweet onions, pineapple, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and button mushrooms—cooks should choose their favorite veggies and use their best-tasting marinade)
Marinated portabella mushrooms (serve on bun as a sandwich or slice and eat as fajitas)
Barbecue tofu or tempeh (place tofu in barbecue sauce and allow to marinate for two to three hours, grill, and serve with baked beans, corn, and a salad)
Have you heard about the new Las Vegas restaurant, the Heart Attack Grill? The Heart Attack Grill’s menu features high cholesterol and saturated fat meat items such as “Single,” “Double,” “Triple,” and “Quadruple Bypass” burgers as well as “Flatliner Fries” cooked in lard.
Recently, yet another patron of the Heart Attack Grill has reportedly fallen ill, during a meal at the hospital-themed Las Vegas restaurant. CBS reported that a woman is recovering, after collapsing unconscious and suffering a possible heart attack, at the restaurant that serves up high saturated fat and cholesterol fare. If the incident sounds familiar, it is! In February a man suffered a heart attack there, and had to be taken out on a stretcher while eating the restaurant’s “Triple Bypass Burger.”