Nana’s chocolate pie. Mom’s rice casserole. Uncle Bob’s famous cheese potatoes. Your favorite holiday season delights are not always the most nutritious, but maintaining a healthy diet during the holiday season is important. Marinades blend science and savory to help you create new holiday dining traditions that are delicious and good for you.
Marinades tenderize meat, usually with an acidic ingredient such as lemon or lime juice, wine, vinegar or yogurt. Herbs and spices add flavor, zest and cancer fighting phytochemicals. Ingredients in marinades also add moisture. Then, all that’s needed is time for the marinade to work.
“Eating healthy during the holidays is important, and we encourage everyone to be creative and introduce new cancer-fighting recipes into their menus,” said Melissa Crawley, M.D., at Texas Oncology–Boerne. “Marinades add flavor and tenderness to foods, and can include ingredients known to cut cancer risk, such as garlic and herbs. They can also inhibit the formation of certain unhealthy chemical compounds that occur when the protein in meats is cooked at high temperatures.“
Marinating meats before cooking or grilling can reduce the amount of these chemical compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), that form on meat cooked at high temperatures. American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) studies have shown that in some cases, even briefly marinating foods can reduce HCAs by as much as 92 to 99 percent. According to the AICR, vinegar, citrus juice, herbs, spices and olive oil all seem to contribute to the prevention of HCA formation.
Yogurt as a marinade also has cancer-fighting properties. It can help tenderize meat and poultry even more than using other acidic ingredients, while serving as an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which may be protective against colon cancer. Yogurt intake has also been linked with lower levels of chronic inflammation.
It’s important to use marinades safely. If you are planning on using some of the marinade as a sauce, put the additional marinade aside in a separate container before you put any raw meat, poultry or fish into the marinade. Then store it in the refrigerator. Once the marinade has come into contact with raw meat, fish or poultry, it should not be eaten unless it is thoroughly cooked. It is safest to discard marinade that has come in contact with raw meat, chicken, fish or poultry.
· Plan on 6 to 24 hours of marinating time for chicken and meat.
· Thin fish usually needs about 30 minutes in the marinade with thick fish needing one hour.
· Food you are marinating should be completely covered by the marinade.
· Marinate in a nonmetal container like a glass bowl or resealable plastic bag.
· Always store marinade in the refrigerator and remember to marinate foods in the refrigerator in order to practice good food safety around the holidays and all year long.