Diet & Exercise: Marinades lend flavor and health benefits to meals

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 20, 2017

Most everyone knows that marinades make meats and veggies more tender and flavorful, but did you know that they can actually be beneficial to your health? That’s right. Marinades can be good for you.

Now, some of you might be saying to yourself, “I thought marinades were mostly salt, sugar, with a little garlic thrown in for taste.” 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 ingredients that make marinades healthful. The first are natural acids from ingredients like vinegar, fruit juices, and tomatoes. These acids tenderize meats by breaking down their protein structures. This allows natural juices and flavors to seep in, which makes meat easier to digest.

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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 under-cooked foods. A listeria infection can be very dangerous, especially to 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 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 David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.