Healthy Gluten-Free Alternatives to Traditional Grill Fare

Fire up the grill without breaking a sweat

With summer here, it’s important to ensure that you maximize the nutritional benefits of seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as gluten-free and grill-friendly protein sources. Doing so will fuel your body with the vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats and phytonutrients it needs.

For many, barbecuing is likened to an art form; it’s an activity we get revved up about, as spring and summer are often short. Be creative with your cooking and savor the flavors.

When you grill, make every bite matter with meals that are nourishing for you and your loved ones. You can do this by choosing unprocessed whole foods, clean protein choices and lots of flavorful vegetables. Make your own marinades, sauces and dips from scratch to avoid unwanted sugar, starch and sodium. Here is a comprehensive look at some of the healthiest gluten-free food options for the grill this summer.

Nutritious protein options for the grill

Turkey is a key choice

Turkey is a wonderful lean protein source and can be easily adapted for the grill. Researchers at New York University School of Medicine found that turkey meat, especially the dense nutrients found in the dark meat, has cardiovascular health benefits. The study found that the naturally-occurring nutrient taurine, present in the dark meat of turkey and chicken, has the ability to lower the risk of coronary heart disease in women who suffer from high cholesterol levels. In regard to the study’s findings, Dr. Yu Chen, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Medicine and principal investigator, stated, “Taurine…seems to have a significant protective effect in women with high cholesterol.”

Taurine has little effect on women with low cholesterol levels; however, women with high cholesterol are 60 percent less likely to develop or suffer complications from coronary heart disease when consuming taurine. Let your turkey absorb your favorite marinade overnight in the fridge before you pop it on the grill for fuller flavor.

Salmon is a summertime favorite

Salmon is a summertime favorite for many people and provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A study conducted at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston discovered that the consumption of fish such as salmon can improve the aging process in adults. Through extensive research that took place between 1992 and 2015, American researchers found that properties in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found most commonly (in abundance) in fish like salmon, can aid in “healthy aging,” through the regulation of blood pressure, heart rate and inflammation.

Another study from the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, found that omega-3 fatty acids can affect serotonin levels in the brain, which control important cognitive functions, including mood, decision making, aggression and impulsive behavior. The omega-3 found in salmon positively interact with serotonin to improve cognitive function. Try honey-and-Dijon-mustard-basted salmon steaks on the barbecue for a delicious, heart-healthy, lighter alternative to red meat (steak).

The best veggies for the barbie

Eggplant is good for your heart

Grilled eggplant with a touch of olive oil and salt is a great addition to any meal, and researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that dietary flavonoids found in berries, grapes and eggplant can improve your cardiovascular health. Harvard researchers found that a specific component of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, can help to dilate arteries, allowing better blood flow and the elimination of plaque buildup.

Dr. Aedin Cassidy, head of the department of nutrition at Norwich Medical School, stated, “We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits and vegetables may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life.” The study found that women who consumed considerable amounts of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables like eggplant had a 32 percent reduction in their risk for heart attack. 

Zucchini is abundant in dietary fiber

A study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center discovered that consuming fruits and vegetables that contain a high dietary fiber content can aid in lowering blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. The researchers found that individuals who consumed at least 50 grams of dietary fiber per day from foods such as zucchini, winter squash, sweet potato, oranges and papayas were successful in lowering blood sugar levels and decreasing insulin levels in the blood.

In addition, researchers at Georgia State University found that dietary fiber can also help prevent metabolic syndrome, promote healthy gut bacteria and prevent obesity. The study found that soluble fiber directly impacts gut microbiota, essentially restoring gut health, which, along with the proper diet, can lower an individual’s chances of obesity. To increase sweetness, drip some lemon juice on your zucchini before grilling it.

Brussels sprouts boast cancer-fighting properties

Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, bok choy and broccoli have cancer-fighting properties. Dr. Emily Ho, a researcher at Oregon State University, believes that “if you are worried about cancer…increasing your dietary intake of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are a good idea.” These dark-green vegetables contain the compounds sulforaphane and histone deacetylase (HDAC), which can aid and promote cancer prevention. This particular study specifically focused on prostate cancer, finding that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli could trigger HDAC production.

Portobello mushrooms offer antioxidant power

A study conducted at Penn State discovered that portobello mushrooms contain similar levels of dietary antioxidants when compared to colorful fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant-rich foods are often vibrant and bright in color; however, Dr. N. Joy Dubost from Penn State has found considerable evidence to suggest that antioxidants are particularly abundant within mushrooms, especially portobello and cremini mushrooms. Dubost used the oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay (ORAC), which measures the antioxidant capacity of a substance, and found that Portobello mushrooms have an ORAC of 9.7, while carrots and green beans have an ORAC of 5.

You can’t beat the taste of barbecued mushrooms brushed with olive oil and a pinch of salt. When cooking any type of mushroom, make sure you grill it properly and do not overcook. You can even use portobello mushrooms as a bun for your burger!

What about the bun?

A low-carb bun alternative

You might wonder what fun a burger is without the bun. To limit the amount of carbohydrates in your bun while still presenting an easy-to-serve, easy-to-hold, protein-filled meal, try meat on a skewer! Skewers are extremely trendy, and the hand-held skewer is easy to customize, depending on each person’s health needs and food interests.

Skewers are not just for protein. Add a colorful assortment of vegetables onto your skewer with your protein for a beautiful and balanced snack or meal.

There are also low-carb buns available on the market. Or make your own low-carb bun with an almond flour-based recipe.

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