Hot Off The Grill! Reducing Cancer Risk
August 1, 2010

Hot Off The Grill! Reducing Cancer Risk

A simple marinade can reduce toxins by 90%!

Too hot, too long!

Grilling can be among the healthiest types of cooking because it gives foods a delicious flavor while using little or no added fat. But grilling also can produce toxic compounds. In a 2008 study, people who ate well-done red meat more than twice a week had a 57% higher risk of developing colon cancer than those who ate their meat medium or rare.

Grills that burn gas, briquettes or hardwood charcoal easily can achieve temperatures of 500′ F or more… covered ceramic grills can exceed 1,000′ F. High heats are ideal for searing meats and sealing in the juices, but prolonged cooking at high temperatures produces dangerous chemical by-products. These include heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products.

Safer Grilling

  1. Marinate. Meat that is marinated for as little as 15-20 minutes prior to grilling produces up to 90% less HCAs than unmarinated meat. This may be due to lemon juice or vinegar changing the molecular structure of meat protein and inhibiting HCA production.
  2. Season with spices. Meats that are coated with antioxidant herbs and spices, such as rosemary, turmeric, ginger and cumin, as well as garlic, produce fewer HCAs during grilling than unseasoned meats.
  3. Cook cooler. For cancer prevention, the temperature of the grill is more important than the time on the grill. Ons study found that meats cooked at a lower-than-usual temperature but for two minutes longer had only about one-third of the HCAs as meat that was cooked at a higher temperature for a shorter time and to the same doneness.
  4. After searing the meat, move it to a cooler part of the grill…or raise the grill rack a few inches so that the meat is farther from the heat. With gas grills, you can use the high-heat setting to quickly sear the meat, then lower the flames for slower cooking.
  5. Shorten the cooking time. Meat that is cooked rare, medium-rare or medium will produce significantly lower levels of HCAs than meat that’s well-done.
  6. Cut meat into small pieces before grilling. Smaller pieces will cook more quickly, which will reduce the level of HCAs.
  7. Cook lean to avoid flare-ups. Slicing off visible fat before grilling reduces fatty flare-ups and the production of PAHs.
  8. Use more vegetables. HCAs and PHAs are produced only with animal proteins. You can avoid both risks by grilling vegetables, even brushed with a little olive oil.

By eating less meat and more vegetables, you will have fewer cell-damaging compounds, and more of the protective phytochemicals that inactivate those compounds.

Karen Collins, RD, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, DC.

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