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Grill with Caution

Posted by Heather J.

Mounting research suggests a link between eating grilled meats (especially well-done) and the risk for breast and colorectal cancer. Why? Two classes of carcinogens (cancer causing substances) can be found in high concentrations in grilled meats. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed when beef, pork, poultry, fish, and other animal meats are cooked at a high temperature; as in, on the grill. Another class of carcinogens, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are formed on the surface of meats by smoke and flame flares which occur when fat and juices drip down onto the heat source below. To minimize your exposure to these carcinogens, reduce the meat's time on the grill by either removing it before it is well done or cooking it in the oven or microwave before throwing it on the flame. You can also choose lean cuts of meat and trim any visible fat before tossing onto the grill, to prevent less of the stuff dripping onto coals (pleasant thought, huh). Studies also show that marinating meat reduces the build up of some carcinogens. Lastly, trim and discard the charred pieces before eating it and/or cook it until it's done, not blackened. Another, more healthful option is to skip the meat altogether and fill that plate with fresh fruit (watermelon - yum), vegetables (grilled zucchini and squash, perhaps?), and opt for a veggie burger or veggie dog. Vegetable protein doesn't produce the same level of carcinogens as animal protein. Char-grilled Tofu Pup? Oh boy!
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