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July 4th Grilling Tip - High Heat Makes Meat A Cancer Risk.

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:36pm

July 4th is almost here and BBQ grills will be out everywhere. I don't eat much meat anymore but when I did, it had to be burned. I couldn't stand to see any pink and thought well-done was the safest, no e-coli etc. Little I knew about cooking meat - now I know the higher heat and "burning it to well-done" releases cancer causing chemicals! I've never been a big meat eater - never liked it - rarely cook it - so I have an excuse for not knowing "well-done" is bad. Also find Greener Grilling Help in this post.

How do you like your steak or burger?

Research has shown that cooking certain meats at high temperatures creates chemicals that are not present in uncooked meats. A few of these chemicals may increase cancer risk. For example, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals formed from the cooking of muscle meats such as beef, pork, fowl, and fish. HCAs form when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) react at high cooking temperatures.

Researchers have identified 17 different HCAs resulting from the cooking of muscle meats that may pose human cancer risk.

Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as well as by Japanese and European scientists indicates that heterocyclic amines are created within muscle meats during most types of high temperature cooking.

Studies have looked at the relationship associated with methods of cooking meat and the development of specific types of cancer.

One study conducted by researchers from NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics found a link between individuals with stomach cancer and the consumption of cooked meats.

* The researchers assessed the diets and cooking habits of 176 people diagnosed with stomach cancer and 503 people without cancer.
* The researchers found that those who ate their beef medium-well or well-done had more than three times the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate their beef rare or medium-rare.
* They also found that people who ate beef four or more times a week had more than twice the risk of stomach cancer than those consuming beef less frequently.

Additional studies have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats.

Four factors influence HCA formation: type of food, cooking method, temperature, and time. HCAs are found in cooked muscle meats; other sources of protein (milk, eggs, tofu, and organ meats such as liver) have very little or no HCA content naturally or when cooked.

Temperature is the most important factor in the formation of HCAs. Frying, broiling, and barbecuing produce the largest amounts of HCAs because the meats are cooked at very high temperatures. One study conducted by researchers showed a threefold increase in the content of HCAs when the cooking temperature was increased from 200° to 250°C (392° to 482°F).

Oven roasting and baking are done at lower temperatures, so lower levels of HCAs are likely to form, however, gravy made from meat drippings does contain substantial amounts of HCAs. Stewing, boiling, or poaching are done at or below 100°C (212°F); cooking at this low temperature creates negligible amounts of the chemicals. Foods cooked a long time (“well-done” instead of “medium”) by other methods will also form slightly more of the chemicals. Resource

Don't under cook meat. Pathogens like Salmonella, e. coli and Campylobacter can survive even in browned meat. For ground beef and all cuts of pork, cook to 160 degrees F; for beef steaks and chops, 145 F; for poultry thigh and breasts, 170 F and for whole birds, 180 F. Use a thermometer!

Soy burgers and vegetables are also healthy grilling choices.

When grilling beef, chicken or pork look for organic meat free of hormones and antibiotics. Organic also means the animal was raised on a vegetarian diet. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow disease," is caused by cows being fed cow by-products.

Even sports arena concession stands are responding to the demand for organic meat. Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals are trying out organic hot dogs and bratwurst.

When grilling seafood, avoid sword-fish and tuna, which are more likely to carry mercury. Choose wild caught salmon and other healthy choices.

Greener Grilling Tips

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