The 4th of July is right around the corner, which means grilling season is in full swing! I love to use my grill all summer, and rarely turn on the oven from May until September. So imagine my dismay when I found out that there is an increased risk of cancer from some types of grilled food. Yup. Is there anything in this world that is safe anymore?
Research on Grilling and Cancer
Researchers have known for years that people who eat more processed and red meat have a higher risk of cancer, specifically colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) notes that the risk of colon and rectal cancer rises by about 20 percent for every serving of red or processed meat you eat per day.
The nitrites used to color and preserve processed meats (ever wonder why corned beef and bologna are pink?) are the suspected link between processed meats and cancer. Research on a link between unprocessed red meat and cancer however, is still unclear.
Try to eat no more than 6-8 oz (cooked weight) of processed and/or red meat each week. According to AICR that includes things like steak and burgers, as well as pork, lamb, ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages – all big grilling favorites. Instead, substitute more lean chicken breast, fish, and of course lots of veggies.
Another area of concern is something called heterocyclic amines (HCA). These are cancer-causing agents that are formed when meat, poultry or fish is cooked to well done and charred during grilling. There haven’t been many research studies on these compounds and their specific link to cancer, but let’s play it safe and try to avoid them anyway. The good news is that they are easy to avoid and still enjoy your grilled foods.
How to Avoid Cancer-Causing Agents
- Seafood is much lower in HCAs than beef, pork or poultry, and grilled vegetables (or fruits) have none, so as I mentioned already – less meat, more veggies.
- Marinating all meats and fish drastically cuts down on the amount of HCAs formed. Research seems to indicate that the length or type of marinade does not matter, so whenever you grill any type of meat or fish, give it at least a quick dip in a sauce or marinade.
- If possible, microwave your meats before grilling (this works best with bone-in chicken). Cutting down on grilling time means less HCAs, as does grilling at a lower temperature, and flipping your meat frequently.
So grill on readers, but do it safely, and try one of my favorite marinade recipes.
Lemon Herb Marinade for Chicken, Fish, or Vegetables
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Mix all ingredient in a bowl, pour over chicken, fish, or vegetables and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hrs.