It’s BBQ Season! Safe Summer Grilling!

Summer is here!  With the warmer weather and sunshine comes the smell of BBQ food in the neighborhood.  BBQs are definitely popular for bringing family and friends together but most of us are unaware of some of the harmful substances that we may be consuming through grilling our food.

High heat from BBQing produce chemicals such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic substances with cancer causing properties, reports an issue of The Harvard Health Letter.

High-heat grilling can convert proteins in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

When fat and juices from meat products drip down to the heat surface on the grill, smoke is produced.  This smoke contains potential cancer-causing chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  As smoke rises up past the food, the carcinogens can be deposited on the surface of the meat.

Reducing the amounts of harmful chemicals (HCAs and PAHs) generated when grilling may help reduce cancer risk. Below are some tips that can help to reduce the amounts of harmful chemicals formed when grilling.

 Choose Wisely!  Don’t Burn Your Meat!

•        Choose lean cuts of meat (chicken, turkey, fish, extra lean beef or bison) and trim the fat well before grilling.  Lean and light meats create less dripping and less smoke.  Also try to skip the hotdogs and sausages.  Processed meats typically contain cancer-causing substances.  You can also swap meat for veggies or fruit as they contain phytochemicals that can actually reduce certain types of cancer.

•        Watch that you don’t char or burn your meat.  Reguarly consuming well-done or charred meat may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 60%, according to a University of Minnesota study that tracked the eating habits of more than 62,000 people over a nine-year period.

Prep the Meat

•        The American Institute for Cancer Research says marinating meat for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs. When using marinades, thinner is better. Choose marinades that contain vinegar and/or lemon. Thicker marinades with honey or sugar can tend to “char,” possibly increasing exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

Limit Time – Limit Exposure

•    Cooking meat for a long time also can lead to the formation of carcinogens, because of longer exposure to smoke and flames.

•     Try fish, which cooks significantly quicker or make kebobs, as they take less time to cook.

Also make sure that you scrape down your grill when you are done cooking to get rid of carcinogenic residue that can build up!

All the Best,

Marita Schuach, ND

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