Healthy grilling is easy when you know some basic facts about how grilling affects our food.
So what the heck are HCAs are and why are they dangerous?
HCAs are cancer-causing chemicals that form when muscle meat, such as beef, pork, poultry and seafood, is cooked at high temperatures. Studies show that people who consume a lot of well-done, broiled, fried or barbequed meats are at greater risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer.
What about PAHs? Why are they dangerous?
Like HCAs, PAHs are cancer-causing compounds that form in smoke when fat drips onto a flame. The smoke then transfers the PAHs onto the outside of the meat during cooking.
Here are a few ways to reduce or eliminate your consumption of these risky compounds:
- Choose a different cooking method: oven roasting, stewing, poaching and boiling all generate fewer HCAs.
- Pre-cook meat in the microwave: microwaving reduces the cooking time and decreases the HCA content of foods by releasing certain compounds so they cannot react on the grill.
- Marinate your meat: according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, marinating reduces HCA formation by up to 96 percent.
- Add cruciferous vegetables: eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage (think cole slaw!) might change the way your body metabolizes HCAs.
- Avoid well-done meats: using an instant-read thermometer will help you determine when your meat is fully cooked without overcooking it. Avoid meat that is charred, burned or dried out.
- Make kabobs: cutting meat into smaller pieces before cooking allows the meat to cook faster. Plus you can add lots of vegetables.
- Choose lean meats: leaner meats will drip less and cause less smoke to form PAHs.
- Grill more fruits and vegetables!