Cancer-safe grilling: Add marinade, forget the hot dog and other tips
By all means, do grill for summer holidays.
But you can cut your exposure to potential cancer-causing agents by tweaking the menu and method of cooking, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
Grilling and cooking meat at high temperatures can create several cancer-causing substances that are either present in the flames or present in the meat under intense heat, potentially altering DNA that can increase the risk of cancer, according to AICR.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are what you want to avoid. HCAs are caused when meat is cooked at high temperatures (char marks) and PAHs are carried in smoke created when fat drips and causes flame flare-ups in your grill.
AICR recommends the following:
- Marinating meat before grilling can decrease formation of cancer-causing substances. Cedars-Sinai Blog takes it a step further, advising acidic rubs and marinades may help break down some of the muscle in the meat and reduce the number of cancer-causing substances. An alternative to marinades is to rub heart-healthy olive oil over the food and season it with pepper, spices, and herbs.
- Pre-cooking larger cuts of meat before grilling will cut down time it is exposed to flames.
- Trimming the fat off meat can reduce flare-ups and charring.
- Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing it with vegetables can shorten cooking time.
- Barbecuing more vegetables and fruits. They don’t form carcinogens and can protect against cancer. AICR’s new American plate model for cancer prevention recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables.
- Limiting or avoiding processed meat (think hot dogs) and choosing only moderate portions of red meat. Even small amounts of processed meat, when eaten regularly, can increase risk for colorectal cancer.
- Cedars-Sinai also advises to flip meats often to avoid the char marks.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .