Summer is right around the corner which means it’s the perfect time for; outdoor gatherings and firing up the BBQ. And respected authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) frequently state that grilled foods are generally considered a “healthful choice.”
But unfortunately some risks may come with this popular pleasure-as there’s mounting evidence that grilling meat exposes you to high levels of cancer causing compounds; heterocyclic amines (HCAs ) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs). And the hotter and the longer the meat is cooked, the more HCA’s and PAHs are formed.
Heterocyclic amines (first discovered from smoke condensation) are a type of nitrogen containing compound that’s produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures.
According to Dr. Raymond Thomas – grilled food expert and associate professor at Memorial University states that “Studies have shown that consuming HCAs through eating charred meat could increase the risk of developing colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreas, breast and prostate cancers in humans.”
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage and tobacco are burned. PAHs are formed when fat and juices from meat that’s grilled directly over an open fire drip onto the fire causing flames or smoke.
Robert Turesky an expert in cancer causation at the University of Minnesota says “PAHs are metabolized by enzymes in the body. Some of the byproducts of this process can cause DNA damage that may contribute to the development of cancer.”
So, should you give up grilling? No!
While it’s true that studies of people who eat a lot of grilled meat, especially well-done meat show a moderate increase in the rick of certain cancers, there are several ways to minimize or even eliminate the unhealthy aspects of grilling so you can continue to enjoy your summer gatherings.
Here are a few risk-reducing tips you can put into practice so you can have your steak and eat it too:
Although it’s unclear why- marinating your meat reduces the amount of carcinogenic compounds. Scientists found marinating steak and chicken in a red wine marinade for six hours before grilling can cut HCAs by up to 90 percent. Beer was also efficient at reducing HCAs, cutting levels significantly in just four hours.
Trimming the fat off the meat and using a rack or cedar plank before you grill reduces the amount of those nasty PAHs. I use a grill mat which is perfect for keeping food off the grates. These mats are made by several different manufacturers and all are PTFE-coated glass fabric sheet, non-toxic and free of PFOAs.
Don’t set your grill on the blow torch setting! –Cook’s Illustrated magazine recommends flipping the meat every 30-60 for seconds for the best flavor and to avoid charring.
Rethink your side dishes! Cruciferous veggies like broccoli contain anti-inflammatory nutrients that change the way your body breaks down dangerous grilling chemicals, making meat safe.
Choose Surf Over Turf!
Fish proteins like salmon, trout, shrimp and scallops are less inclined to produce HCAs and PAHS and are fabulous on the grill!