Healthy Grilling Tips for Summer Barbecues06/09/13
SUNDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- For many Americans, summer
just wouldn't be the same without a backyard barbecue. However, the
blackened meats and smoky flavor that come with grilling could put
your health at risk, experts caution.
The good news, though, is that by planning ahead and making some
smart choices, you can enjoy summer barbecues and reduce your
exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
High-heat grilling can convert proteins found in red meat, pork,
poultry and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These chemicals
have been linked to breast, stomach, prostate and colon cancer.
"What happens is that the high temperature can change the shape of the protein structure in the meat so it becomes irritating in the body and is considered a carcinogenic chemical," Stacy Kennedy, a nutritionist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said in an institute news release.
Another cancer-causing agent, called polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs), is found in the smoke from the barbeque. PAHs
form when fat and juices from meat cooking on the grill drip down
onto the heat source.
"That's where the main cancer-causing compound occurs in grilling," Kennedy said. "So you want to reduce the exposure to that smoke."
For those who plan to fire up the grill this summer, Kennedy
offered the following tips to reduce exposure to cancer-causing
- Choose meats wisely.Avoid grilling high-fat meats, like ribs
and sausages. Instead, choose lean meats, which create less
dripping and less smoke. Always trim excess fat and remove skin.
It's also a good idea to choose smaller cuts of meat, such as
kabobs, which require less cooking time.
- Try thin marinades.Thicker marinades tend to char, which
could increase exposure to cancer-causing agents. Choose marinades
made with vinegar or lemon, which will form a protective layer on
- Reduce grilling time.Always thaw meat before cooking. Meat
and fish also should be partially cooked in the microwave before
grilling. This will reduce cooking time and the risk for smoke
- Flip often.Flipping burgers once every minute will help
prevent burning or charring.
- Consider food placement.Be sure to place food at least six
inches away from a heat source.
- Create a barrier.Do not allow juices to spill and produce
harmful smoke. Line the grill with aluminum foil or cook on cedar
- Consider veggies.Try grilling your favorite vegetables since
they do not contain the protein that forms harmful HCAs. "People
are surprised, but you can safely eat charred vegetables," Kennedy
said. "They have different proteins that are not affected the same
way as the meat protein.
Despite the risks, Kennedy said, barbecue enthusiasts should
keep things in perspective. "If you're grilling and following the
proper safety tips, the risk of getting cancer from grilling food
is very low," she said. "Being overweight or obese, which are at
epidemic levels in the U.S., are far greater risk factors for
developing cancer than the consumption of grilled foods."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about
HCAs and cancer risk.
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