Is it healthier to marinate pork in apple juice than to marinate in an Italian dressing?

You ask a fantastic question! Marinating various types of food is such a good way to add juiciness and flavor to the meal. There are hundreds of different recipes for tasty marinades, but some of them may be filled with a lot of added sugar, salt, and fat…so I advise my patients to choose their marinades wisely. Typical marinades contain an oil component and an acid component. Of the two choices you provided, my answer would be to choose the Italian dressing over the apple juice. The main reason I selected Italian dressing actually has to do with cancer. During the summer time, many people love to grill! Unfortunately, grilling meats can lead to the formation of a dangerous cancer causing compound. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) “The combination of meat with intense heat is what prompts scientists to caution against traditional grilling. The substances in the muscle proteins of red meat, poultry and seafood react under high heat to form carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs can damage the DNA of our genes and contribute to the process of cancer development. Consumption of HCAs is most clearly linked to cancers of the colon and stomach.” Because of the risk of HCA formation, dietitians generally recommend that people limit the amount of meat that they grill. However, if you have a hankering for grilled chicken, there are ways to naturally lower HCA formation and marinades are one of them! The acid from the marinade (specifically the vinegar part of the Italian dressing) can actually reduce the formation of HCA’s by nearly 96%! To further reduce HCA formation, be sure to flip the meat often and reduce the cooking temperature.

Marinades are great because they not only add flavor to the meat, but they can also help tenderize the meat. The acidic component of the marinade (vinegar, citrus juice, beer or wine) can break down the tissue of the meat. But try to avoid letting the meat marinade for too long, as the acid will break down too much tissue and you will have a soggy dish. It is recommended that you marinade meat according to what you are serving. Try not to marinade seafood for more than an hour. Chicken can be marinated for approximately 2 hours, pork loin can soak for 4 hours and beef can sit for 24 hours.

We have established that I would select Italian dressing for a marinade. However, if you are looking to reduce the amount of fat in your dish, you could make your own and substitute milk, buttermilk, or yogurt for the oil. This will keep the moisture but lose a lot of the fat. I have used marinades that are as simple as lime juice, fresh garlic, and cilantro! Take some time and look for healthier marinade recipes and then happy grilling!

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