Get More Fruits and Vegetables with Your Grill
With the weather getting nicer, it’s time to fire up the grill. While we often think about grilling meat, consider adding fruits and vegetables to enhance the flavor of your meals and increase your nutrient intake.
It’s a common misconception that cooking decreases nutrients in vegetables. On the contrary, studies conducted at the Cornell University Department of Food Science by Rui Hai Liu determined cooking actually releases nutrients from the softened cell walls of many different vegetables. The release of these nutrients leads to better absorption in the body and therefore contributes to better health.
Some vegetables that have an improved nutrient absorption after cooking include tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms. For example, when tomatoes are cooked by simmering, roasting, or grilling at 190-200 degrees for 30 minutes, the lycopene becomes up to 30 percent more concentrated and is more readily absorbed in the body.
Studies on human health suggest regular consumption of high levels of lycopene provides protection from certain cancers and may lower the risk of heart disease. Research also indicates the availability of the antioxidants in asparagus increases when asparagus spears are cooked. Also, beta carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A in the body, is higher in cooked carrots compared to raw. Vitamin A is important for vision, bone growth, reproduction and regulating the immune system. Lastly, mushrooms must be cooked in order to tap into their medicinal, immune-boosting properties.
In addition to vegetables, fruit is also a great option for the grill. Grilling fruit enhances the flavor by reducing its liquid and concentrating its sweetness. Grilled fruit can be paired with meat or fish for a delicious sweet and salty combination or served as a summery dessert paired with ice cream or whipped cream. Some fruits that grill really well include pineapple, peaches, apples, pears, bananas, plantains, melons, and strawberries.
Ready to give grilled fruits and vegetables a try? Here’s how to do it:
- Clean, trim, and cut fruit and vegetables into bite-sized pieces, or leave whole. Prepare sturdy salad greens such as romaine, kale, bok choy or small head lettuces by cutting in half or quarters.
- Avoid grilling overly ripe fruit since it won’t hold up well. For softer fruits, keep the peel on.
- Consider using skewers, especially for smaller pieces of fruits and vegetables.
- Oil the grill rack or grill basket by using a paper towel dipped in olive oil or avocado oil and wiping it over the surfaces where the food will touch. Do not use cooking sprays.
- Next, add olive oil, avocado oil, or melted coconut oil or butter to prepared fruits and vegetables.
- Grill salad greens with the cut side down until smoky and wilted. Grill other vegetables by first considering the density of each. Potatoes, for instance, will require a longer grilling time than asparagus or tomatoes. If you choose a mixture of vegetables, start by grilling the more dense choices until almost tender, then add the rest of the vegetables until desired tenderness is reached, turning as needed for even cooking and browning.
- Grill smaller, softer fruit such as apricots and peaches for 5 minutes and firmer fruits such as pears and apples for 10 minutes.
Grilled Fruit Kabobs
- 1/2 cantaloupe, cut into chunks
- 1/2 pineapple, cut into chunks
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 2 bananas, cut into thick slices
- Heat grill to medium-high heat.
- Peel bananas, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Cut cantaloupe in half, scoop out seeds, and cut into chunks, discarding the skin.
- Peel pineapple and cut into chunks, discarding the core.
- Skewer fruit pieces on metal or wooden skewers, alternating the fruit.
- Melt coconut oil, and brush fruit skewers with the oil.
- Grill skewers for 6–8 minutes, turning often to avoid burning.
- Remove from heat when fruit begins to get golden around the edges.