To Grill or Not to Grill?

by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD

It’s finally (almost!) summer time, so you know what that means! Backyard BBQs with family and friends, picnics, and this dietitian’s favorite way to eat, alfresco! Many of us will turn to not only dining outside, but do cook our meals outside too, which means it’s time to fire up the grill. But before we do, let’s take a step back and make sure we’re still on the path to our optimal fertility.

While we all know that certain foods may affect our fertility outcomes, one to definitely keep in mind, especially with our guys out there, is that of the correlation between some of the more commonly grilled foods, and that of semen quality. In a recent study published in 2017 processed red meat was negatively associated total sperm count in young healthy men. Organ meat (liver from beef, calf, pork, chicken, and turkey) consumers were reported as having more normal sperm.  Chicken however, did not relate to any sperm parameter in young men. So what does this all mean? The more processed meats, the worse off they are for our guys, chicken however, can have either no effect, while those organ meats can actually have a positive effect!

Now let’s get to the more important question, how are we cooking that meat? Most commonly, especially in the nicer weather nights, you’ll find the guys all huddled around the grill and this is where is can get tricky. Research has shown that the consumption of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals considered to be “genotoxic” or highly damaging to our genetic material. Studies have shown that higher levels of PAHs in the urine are associated with poor sperm quality and cancer in men, and sadly, grilling is one of those cooking methods that can create them. This is formed from the combination of not only the amino acids from the meat, but the addition of sugars and an extremely high temperature (think open fire!)

So does this mean I’m done with our Weber forever? No, no, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.

  • While we don’t recommend grilling on a daily basis, once or twice a week is a much better option.
  • Consider adding a healthy vegetable, filled with those great antioxidants that can work to protect our cells and combat those nasty PAHs.
  • Discard the charred! When meat becomes charred, increased PAHs are found.
  • Control your temps while cooking. Many times, a drip of sauce or fat from the meat can cause a flare up of flame, this only raises the likelihood that PAHs will be formed.
  • Avoid smoking meats, which prolongs the cooking process and adds to the PAHs found in the prepared meats.

 

Enjoy your summers, All! Try to keep those alfresco dinners healthy and fertility-friendly! 

Want to learn more?  Meet with a nutritionist today! (Elizabeth is available Tuesday evenings and every other Saturday, while Robin is available on Wednesday evenings.) Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004!

Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review

  1. Ricci-S. Al-Beitawi-S. Cipriani-A. Alteri-F. Chiaffarino-M. Candiani-S. Gerli-P. Viganó-F. Parazzini – Andrology – 2017

Photo by Skitterphoto 

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