Foods known to increase cancer risk are the ones we are most likely to grill. Processed meats like sausage and hot dogs have preservatives, colors and other ingredients to make them look and taste amazing. The goal of the food manufacturer is to keep us coming back for more. It’s tough to go cold turkey and stop once we have savored these delicious products,. So the question is, how can we lower our risk but still enjoy that grilled taste?
Cancer causing effects are due to the burning of fat and protein. There is a group of chemical reactions going on by heating at a high temperature that causes charring. This will not only occur on the grill but also in the kitchen within the frying pan. Those chemicals are known as heterocyclic amines (HCA). They are what is produced by burning certain specific components of protein called amino acids on the outside surface of the food. Diets containing high amounts of HCA cause higher risk of many different types of cancers.
A second set of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are what is produced from the vaporization of fat. The hotter the temperature the more fat melts into a liquid. It is then vaporized (turns to smoke) when it hits the burning coals. This material deposits on the meat or any other protein as a coating concentrated with PAH. Consuming regular quantities of PAH significantly increases chances of gastrointestinal, leukemia and lung cancers.
How To Lower Your Risks:
- Stay clear of any processed meat products. At the very least, limit your intake of these meats.
- Choose lean cuts of meat, chicken or fish. This lowers the amount of fat burnt on the fire.
- Marinade beforehand with fresh herbs to reduce harmful chemicals while grilling.
- Cook food for a short time in the microwave before grilling to decrease HCA and PAH by more than 75%.
- Lower grill heat. Cook it for a longer period of time. Use thermometer for the minimum temperature for food safety.
- Remove skin from chicken which lowers production of PAH.
- Burnt section, scrape it off before serving.
- Real BBQ is highest risk. Protein is cooked for hours at high temp. Charring occurs around the entire outer surface of the meat.
- Pair meat with cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc) vegetables to neutralize damage from HCA and PAH. Suck down that coleslaw for highest amounts of antioxidant protection!