Some time back I stumbled upon a blog condemning the grill saying something along the lines of “5 reasons why grilling will kill you”. Naturally my mind went to using too much lighter fluid causing an explosion so I clicked the link to see what fun ways I could hurt myself this weekend. However, to my dismay the article was about how grilling can cause cancer, and that anyone who uses a grill is at harm and would be better off throwing out their cooking device.
Well I can say that as a lifelong lover of anything bacon, steak, and BBQ related I quickly made it my mission to find out if I should consult an oncologist, or if Memorial Day weekend plans were safe (grilling, home made beer, and Frisbee btw). Well I can safely say that I will be spending my afternoon savoring the sweet sweet smell of venison and Mae farm pork sausage.
I found most of the information on the subject in peer reviewed literature, but today’s post mostly comes from the fine folks at Precision Nutrition. Here is what you need to know:
– Grilling meat does produce a couple of chemicals that may increase risk of cancer (HCA & PAH
– Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meat is overcooked or charbroiled
-Four factors influence HCA formation: 1. Type of food 2. How it’s cooked 3. Temperature 4. How long it’s cooked
– Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when meat is charred or blackened, or when fat from the meat drips onto the hot surface of the grill.
– PAH creation is influenced by: 1. Temperature of cooking 2. How long food is cooked 3. Type of fuel used in heating 4. Distance from heat source 5. Fat content of the food
– How to make grilling healthier:
1. Use herbs and spices
2. Acid-based marinades Beer marinades work, too!!!
3. Don’t overcook HCAs and PAHs depend on temperature plus time.
4. Choose meat wisely. Highly-processed meats have a much stronger link to cancer than less-processed meats.
5. Include lots of fruits and veggies
6. Strategize while cooking i.e. Cut your meat into smaller pieces, Flip meat frequently, Cook meat on medium to medium-high heat, Cover the grill with foil.
7. And my FAVORITE drinking a beer with your grilled meat can significantly lower the mutagenic activity of the HCAs that formed.
The author of the PN article, Brian St. Pierre, sums things up extremely well when he says “Keep the risks in perspective. Overall, HCAs and PAHs make a minor contribution to your cancer risk. Being sedentary, having excess body fat, and eating a diet rich in highly processed foods are much greater risk factors. If you have some slow-cooked, pit-roasted ribs in your life once in a while, you’ll probably survive. (And likely be happier overall. Don’t be afraid of your food.)” Have a fun and safe holiday weekend, and say a prayer (or take a moment of silence) in remembrance of those who have fallen for our nation.