“Research shows that diets high in red and processed meat increase risk for colon cancer,” according to registered dietitian Alice Bender, representing the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), which studies the impact of lifestyle on cancer risk. “And grilling meat, red or white, forms potent cancer-causing substances.”
There are five simple things to keep in mind to make this summer’s backyard BBQ healthier.
1) Mix up the meat. Which meat you choose to grill is just as important as how you grill it. No matter how you prepare it, diets high in red meat (beef, pork and lamb), are linked to increased risk for colon cancer. This includes processed meat like hot dogs and sausage.
Get creative with fish and chicken with the use of spices, herbs, peppers and sauces to dress up white meat.
2) Marinate, marinate, marinate. Charring and cooking meat, poultry and fish under high heat causes compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. These substances have shown the ability to damage DNA in ways that make cancer more likely, according to AICR.
The group said that marinating meat, poultry or fish for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs. Using a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice or wine along with herbs and spices seems to be the key. Scientists are still investigating precisely how these marinades help lower HCAs, but it’s possible that compounds in these ingredients are responsible.
3) Partially pre-cook. PAHs are also deposited onto the meat by smoke. So by reducing the amount of time meat spends exposed to flame by first partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove, you can reduce the amount of PAHs you ingest.
Remember to place partially cooked meat on the preheated grill immediately. This helps keep it safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.
4) Stay low. Cook the meat over a low flame. Doing so can reduce the formation of both HCAs and PAHs, and help keep 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.
5) Throw some color on the grill. Vegetables and fruits contain fiber, vitamins and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals. These substances add anti-cancer action to your backyard bash.
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