By Mikel Theobald
A healthy diet is one of the cornerstones of managing diabetes. Switching out sugary, high-carb foods for more healthful choices is a given, but you may not realize that the cooking methods you use to prepare even good-for-you foods can put your health at risk. A University of Illinois study found evidence that cooking methods using high temperatures, like grilling, frying, and broiling, are particularly risky because they produce “advanced glycation end products,” or AGEs, harmful compounds that may play a role in the development of diabetes-related complications.
Advanced glycation end products are sugar-derived substances produced naturally in small amounts by your body. They began forming when you were in the womb and continue accumulating as you age. When you have diabetes, you produce higher concentrations of AGEs because of the increased levels of glucose in your system.
AGEs are also produced in foods, especially those that are exposed to heat. Foods cooked at high temperatures are more likely to produce a higher amount of AGEs – and you can taste the results. These compounds are responsible for giving steaks their enticing charred grill marks and brownies their irresistibly crispy edges. Foods that are pasteurized or sterilized at high heat can also form AGEs. Animal-based foods that have high fat and protein are typically AGE-rich to begin with and more likely to form additional AGEs when cooked at high temperatures. On the other hand, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk have relatively few AGEs, even when cooked.
Damaging Effects of AGEing
According to Claudia Luevano-Contreras, a PhD candidate in the division of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of the University of Illinois study on AGEs, “it is believed that AGEs could provoke the tissue damage seen in complications of diabetes." A number of studies have found that a higher intake of AGEs produce levels of inflammation and oxidation in people with diabetes. Inflammation triggered by oxidative stress is at the root of many chronic conditions.
Atherosclerosis, the dangerous buildup of plaque along arteries, is already a health threat to people with diabetes, and high amounts of AGEs in your diet could make it worse. According to the American Diabetes Association, studies show that AGEs contribute to plaque buildup, arterial stiffening, and loss of elasticity in large blood vessels. Blood flow to your heart could become reduced if plaque buildup, inflammation, or oxidation occurs. Without adequate oxygen-rich blood flow to your heart, your chance of having a heart attack or developing cardiovascular disease increases.
Tips to Minimize Risk
A Mount Sinai School of Medicine study published by the Journals of Gerontology found that the inflammation and oxidative stress that commonly occur with old age will occur even in healthy younger people if their diet includes a high amount of AGEs. The research suggests changing your approach to cooking to reduce your exposure to AGEs. The American Diabetes Association offers tips to get you started:
- Eat more fresh foods.
- Cook at lower temperatures.
- Cook using moist heat techniques: Steam, boil, poach, or stew foods.
- Marinate foods in acidic liquids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, rather than sugary sauces, to reduce AGEs.
- If you choose to use the grill, be sure to clean off any charred remains on the grilling rack before cooking.
- Turn meat often, every 30 to 60 seconds, to avoid charring.
- If a food does become charred or blackened, cut off those pieces before eating.
- Choose thin, lean cuts of meat that require less cooking time.
- Opt for fish instead of meat – fish cooks faster, leaving less time for AGEs to form.
- Remove skin when cooking poultry because it chars easily.
"Charred Foods May Pose Diabetes Risks" originally appeared on Everyday Health.