Marinade your way to better health

Published 2:46 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

Most everyone knows marinades make meats and veggies more tender and flavorful, but did you know they could actually be beneficial to your health?

That’s right.

Marinades can actually be good for you. Now, some of you may be saying to yourself, “I thought marinades were made of mostly salt, sugar, with a little garlic thrown in for taste.”

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Actually, some are, but others contain antioxidant-rich ingredients like olive oil, citrus juices, honey, tomatoes, hot peppers, cilantro, ginger and fresh rosemary. These ingredients help boost your immune system, protect you from harmful bacteria and can actually lower your cancer risks.

There are several key substances that make marinades healthful. The first are natural acids from ingredients like raw cider vinegar, fruit juices and tomatoes. These acids tenderize meats by breaking down their protein structures. This allows juices and flavors to seep in, which makes the meat easier to digest.

Also, these acids help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria such as listeria. Listeria, or listeria monocytogenes, to be more precise, is a type of bacteria that contaminates foods, especially undercooked foods. A listeria infection can be very dangerous, especially for women who are pregnant.

Other healthy marinade ingredients include herbs, spices and vegetable purees. These along with honey, citrus juices, tomatoes, cilantro, ginger, hot pepper and rosemary, help prevent premature aging and fight disease.

Also, marinades can help prevent risks associated with grilling.

When meats are heated to high temperatures, cancer causing substances called heterocyclic amines (HAC) are produced, but according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the use of marinades can reduce these HCAs by as much as 99 percent.

To help prevent food poisoning when using marinades, follow these tips.

Always marinate in the refrigerator. Never taste marinades after adding uncooked meat. Never reuse uncooked marinades. When reading the ingredient label on marinades, look for spices like ginger, herbs like rosemary, oregano and cilantro, fruit juices, vegetables and oil.

Avoid artificial colors, artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup. You can also look through cookbooks and online to get recipes, so you can make your own marinades.

Nutrition or exercise question? Email me at or go to

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A, head strength coach S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.