Barbecue season is here and with almost three-quarters of Americans planning to grill this summer, AICR is issuing its annual cancer-protective advice when cooking out. Check out the latest research and evidence-based advice on staying healthy and cancer-protective as you fire up your grill.
What We Know
Grilling (broiling) and barbecuing (charbroiling) meat, fish, or other foods with intense heat on the grill leads to formation of potential carcinogens. In lab studies these substances have been linked to development of cancer through changes to the DNA.
These substances include:
• Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): present in flames, these compounds can stick to the surface of meat
• Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): these substances form in meat when its proteins react to the intense heat of the grill.
Whether or not you grill them, the research is clear that diets high in red meat increase risk of colorectal cancer, and that even small amounts of processed meats, eaten regularly, increase risk for both colorectal and stomach cancers.
What To Do
Based on this evidence, AICR recommends limiting red meat to 12-18 ounces of cooked meat per week and saving hot dogs and other processed meats (bacon, sausages, etc.) for special occasions.
Try barbecuing more plant foods. Grilled vegetables and fruits are delicious, they don’t form HCAs when cooked and they’re key elements in a cancer protective diet.
AICR’s New American Plate model for cancer prevention recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with plant foods. At your cookout, include plenty of colorful grilled vegetables and fruits like asparagus, red peppers, tomatoes, mangos and pineapple.
Five Steps for Cancer-Safe Grilling
1. Marinate: Studies suggest that marinating meat before grilling can decrease formation of HCAs.
2. Pre-Cook: If you are grilling larger cuts, you can reduce the time your meat is exposed to flame by partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove first.
3. Go Lean: Trimming the fat off your meat can reduce flare-ups and charring. Cook your meat in the center of the grill and make sure to flip frequently.
4. Mix It Up: Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing them with vegetables can shorten cooking time.
5. Go Green: Grilling of vegetables and fruits produces no HCAs. So, add veggies and cut down the amount of meats.