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Thursday, June 27, 2013

I’m freaked out! My grill might cause cancer?

Summer is here and barbequing is my favorite! I love the smell and taste of any type of food that comes hot off the barbeque, especially salmon and bratwurst! Lately I have been researching and discovering some of the dangers of grilling and possible exposures to carcinogens from grilling. WHAT? NO! I didn’t want to hear any more, but I couldn’t deny what I was finding.  

Here’s a bit more scientific of an explanation of what I found.

Grilling protein-filled foods such as meat, chicken and fish creates two kinds of chemical compounds that may contribute to cancer: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form in meat when it's cooked at a high temperature. While frying and broiling produce these chemicals as well, those charred bits at the edges of barbecued meat contain HCAs in their purest state. HCAs, which are also found in cigarette smoke, have been shown to cause cancer in organs including the stomach, colon, liver, and skin-but only in animal studies. It's unclear whether HCAs cause the same problems in people. Still, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated that the chemicals are "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens." PAHs, the second type of compound, are formed when juices from meat drip onto coals or other hot surfaces and create smoke. The smoke contains these carcinogens, which are deposited onto the surface of meat as it swirls around the food.

So for those of you who are completely lost after reading that rather heavy explanation, let’s talk about being proactive…which is what we are ALL about. Have no fear there are several techniques and tips for grilling safely and eliminating or significantly lowering you risk of being exposed to HCAs or PAHs. Here are four tips for safe grilling from The Healthy Edge. You can get access to even more tips in their July Health Series, but we will focus on these four today.

TIP #1: Grill vegetables 
and fruit. 
Unlike meats, vegetables and fruits do not produce these by-products when cooked. YEAH!  I loved grilled peaches, pineapple, corn on the cob and Portobello mushrooms just to name a few. It’s also great to put cut up fruit and vegetables on kabobs. 

TIP #2:    Add the BBQ sauce during the last 2 minutes of grilling. 
Many barbeque type sauces are sugary and promote the burning and charring.  Add a layer at the end of grilling and then have extra BBQ sauce to add after it has been removed.
TIP #3:    Marinate your meat. 
Whatever meat you choose, use a marinade made with vinegar or lemon to act as an "invisible shield" that changes the acidity of the meat and prevents PAHs from sticking. Keep the meat marinating in the fridge while you prepare the sides. Marinating meat has also been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs. Precisely why marinades are protective is still under investigation; some evidence points to the acids (vinegar and citrus) or the antioxidant content.  Even just 30 minutes in the marinade can help. The Healthy Edge is offering the Top Ten Marinades and Sauces for the grill as part of their July Grilling Series

TIP #4:    Partially cook your meat.  
You can partially precook meat in the microwave, oven or stove to help reduce the amount of time the meat sits on the grill exposed to high heat as well as allowing some juices to flow out the meat that might otherwise leak onto the grill and cause flames. To ensure safe food handling, just be sure to put the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill immediately to complete cooking.

For more healthy grilling ideas, recipes and tips, check out the economical monthly subscription from The Healthy Edge including over 250 recipes, health videos, audios, meal plans, product reviews and a new health series each month! It’s under $10.00 and you can cancel anytime.

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