Barbecuing? Read this first!

Here in San Diego, every season is grilling season.

But throughout most of the nation, the covers are only just now coming off of the barbecues as the snow melts, the temperatures rise, and you can go outside without dressing like an Eskimo.

And honestly, is there anything better than fresh food cooked over an open flame?

Well, not so fast.

Now, I'm not here to drain your propane. And I'm not about to throw cold water on your charcoal. But I DO have a caution on HOW to use your grill, because new research reveals a hidden risk behind foods cooked at high temperatures.

Meats that hit the heat can practically cause your blood to boil!

The new study finds that high-temperature cooking -- including barbecuing, grilling, roasting, and broiling -- can cause chemicals including heterocyclic aromatic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to form in your food.

And the more of these compounds you eat, the higher your risk of high blood pressure.

Eating these meats 15 times a month will cause your risk of high blood pressure to jump by nearly a fifth.

And that's not the only reason to limit the heat.

The same study finds that eating well-done meat -- no matter how it's cooked -- will increase your risk of high blood pressure by 15 percent.

Obviously, very few people are lighting up the grill every other day on average (even in the summer).

But since this includes broiled, roasted, and well-done meats, it's easy to hit those 15 overcooked meals without realizing it.

Not worried about blood pressure? You should still worry about how your food is cooked.

Burned and charred meats -- especially the crispy edges that come from a hot grill or broiler -- might be delicious, but those chemicals I mentioned earlier that form when food is burned are part of a class of compounds called advanced glycation end products.

We call them AGEs for short, and that's exactly what they do: They age cells. Rapidly.

In your body, those AGEs can trigger internal changes that lead to all of the risks of aging, including deadly chronic diseases such as cancer and dementia.

I'm not out to ruin anyone's barbecue, especially if you've been waiting all winter to light that grill.

Just be sensible about it. A couple of times a month should be fine if you're otherwise healthy.

You may also want to make a couple of modifications:

  • Cook healthier BBQ dishes (like fish and veggie kabobs instead of ground chuck and processed franks).
  • Don't overcook your food -- meat or otherwise.
  • Consider avoiding direct contact with the grill by cooking your food atop something like a salt block or a cedar plank -- so you can get heat and flavor without the dangerous char.
  • Try marinating your meat, as some studies show that it can reduce the number of unhealthy compounds that form during high-temperature cooking.

Follow any number of these tips, and you'll do a good job avoiding "well-done."