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   Double Duty Grilling: Flavorful and Cancer Preventive Foods

Fire up flavor and health

It’s grilling time and this year you'll be ready to host safe and healthy backyard barbecues with AICR's tips for the season.

Follow these 5 easy steps so that what you grill and how you grill maximizes taste, but minimizes cancer risk for you and your family and friends.

What's the risk?

Charring and cooking meat, poultry and fish with high heat can lead to formation of cancer-causing substances on your burger or filet.

These compounds, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs ), can theoretically damage DNA in ways that make cancer more likely.

Mix up your meat

Processed meat like hotdogs, and too much red meat in your diet are both causes of colorectal cancer. So don’t get stuck on steak, burgers and franks – get creative with fish and chicken.

Create kebabs or toss together tacos – you can use spices, herbs, hot peppers and sauces to dress up tender chunks of chicken and fish.

Marinate the meat

The link between grilled meat and cancer risk isn’t as strong as the link between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer, but it’s easy to minimize risk, so it makes sense to take a few precautions.

Marinate your meat, poultry and fish for at least 30 minutes as that may help reduce formation of HCAs. Try a flavorful mixture of vinegar, lemon juice or wine along with your favorite herbs and spices. Scientists are investigating how marinades help lower HCAs, but it's possible that compounds in the herbs and spices are responsible.


Partially pre-cook

Reduce the time your meat is exposed to the grill's high heat and flames by first partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove.

Immediately place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill. This helps keep your meat safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.

Stay low and slow down

Cook the meat over a low flame. This slows the cooking, but the lower temperature can reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs that are formed in and on the meat – and keeps burning and charring to a minimum.

Reduce flare-ups by keeping fat and juices out of the fire: cut visible fat off the meat, move coals to the side of the grill and cook your meat in the center of the grill. Finally cut off any charred portions of the meat before serving.

Throw some color on the grill

Colorful vegetables and fruits contain fiber, vitamins and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals – all of these add anti-cancer action to you backyard bash. And loading up on these filling plant foods can help you cut back on red and processed meats.

Try onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers or tomatoes in thick slices on the grill, in a grill basket or in chunks for kebabs. Another favorite: corn on the cob. Grilling brings out the sweetness in veggies, so even reluctant veggie eaters can find something to love.

Sweet endings

Grilled fruit is a healthful, creative sweet treat. Cut apples, peaches and pears in half, split bananas lengthwise or prepare medium-thick slices of fresh pineapple. Brush fruit or grill with a little oil so it won’t stick – fruit doesn’t need a lot of time to cook, so watch it closely.

Fruit that is a day or two away from being completely ripe will retain its texture better than very ripe pieces.

Serve grilled fruit with frozen yogurt, a sweet dip or a sprinkling of cinnamon for a perfect picnic ending.

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