Braai (Gotcha Nyama) – The Do’s and Don’ts
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Health and Wellness Guide 

Five tips for a healthy braai:

  1. Braai less red meat and rather go for more fish, pork and chicken
  2. Make sure that your braai grid has adequate holes to allow the fat from the meat to drip off.
  3. Braai with minimal intense heat.
  4. Lower the amount of smoke coming onto the meat. The smoke carries some of the cancer-causing chemicals.
  5. Include lots of antioxidant-rich fruit, vegetables and whole grains to your meal.

I don’t think anyone needs an excuse to light a fire and to braai, whether it is a family gathering, company year-end party or when you are just hanging out on a Sunday afternoon, because the pleasure of eating “braaied” meat always sounds palatable. 

But have you ever wondered if charred meat is good for you? 

With cancer incidence on the rise and health data around red and processed meat causing cancer, you may need to have a closer look at the healthy implications of your food intake. 

It is now a well-known fact that cooking meat at high temperatures does create chemicals that may increase cancer risk. 

More so, it is not new information that red and processed meat in itself may increase cancer risk since nutrition recommendations for cancer prevention says “Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat”, as published in the Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.

Substantial research has been done to prove the presence of chemicals such as Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), a carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemical formed during the cooking of muscle meat. 

Heterocyclic amines are formed when the building blocks of proteins (amino acids) and creatine, a specific chemical found in muscles react at high cooking temperatures.

But that does not completely eliminate braaing from your weekend social events since there are healthier ways of doing it as mentioned in the introduction of this article. 

The bottom line principle is to lessen the amount of red and or processed meat, particularly over a long period of time. 

Meat is a valuable source of nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 but you should consume not more than three portions (350 – 500g) per week. 

Before you start worrying about how much meat to buy, plan your menu first. The meat you choose determines what braai techniques to use. 

Work backwards by looking at what else you want to serve and how meat is going to be used, as well as what kind of appetites your guests will have. 

Consider the side dishes you plan to serve and think about the role that meat will play in the meal. 

Keep fit, stay healthy and be happy 

Tatenda Andrew Nhema

Registered Nurse

Wellness Practitioner

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