Coffee causes cancer. Milk causes cancer. Microwave popcorn causes cancer. Pop causes cancer. Processed meats cause cancer.
We hear these health news alerts and we try to be more cognizant about what we put in our mouths. We grill our meat instead of frying it and eat more fruits and veggies. Now we hear that grilling meat causes cancer? What? I thought grilling was healthy?!
This topic is extremely controversial, even among accredited researchers!
The one conclusion they agree upon is that cooking fleshy meat at high temperatures changes its DNA and the created “heterocyclic aromatic compounds” (HCAs) have been shown to be carcinogenic. The compounds have proven to be cancer causing in animal testing.
Another dangerous side effect caused by grilling meats is the creation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or (PAHs). These carcinogenic gasses are created from fat drippings that burn on the grill. The smoke created is absorbed by the food and we consume it.
Both end products caused cancer in animals experimentally. So the question remains, How much would we need to consume to produce the same results? Nobody really knows.
Shannon Riskey, RN, MSN, at Pittsburgh’s Hillman Cancer Center tells her patients, “Everything that enters our bodies, or we put on our skin, has the potential to ‘mix up’ our DNA, which then causes cells to regenerate in an abnormal way. Basically, how cancer occurs.”
So yes, in a way everything does have the potential to cause cancer. Shannon explained that “moderation is key” and “who wouldn’t want to eat grilled meats?” Love her, it’s so true!
Dr. Jamie Uribarri, Mt. Sinai New York nephrologist and heterocyclic aromatic compounds (HCAs)research leader , tells me the dangers don’t merely lie in grilling, but in cooking meats at high temperatures. His research highlights advanced glycation end products and the link between heating meats and chronic disease.
I had to ask him the question, “Is it the amount of meat people are eating or the cooking process?” Nobody really knows! I’m not shocked!
What do scientists know?
1. Marinate the meat!
Studies show that marinating and rubbing the meat in wine, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice or rosemary can lower its pH and lower the risk of and HCA and PAH development.
2. Eat antioxidant rich fruits and veggies!
Researchers believe that eating foods rich in antioxidants may offset the dangers of grilling carcinogens.
3. Cover the grill with aluminum foil to avoid charring the meat or scrape off the char before eating. Isn’t that the most delicious part?
4. Pre-cook meat so that it is not exposed to high heat for extended periods of time. Boiled burger, anyone?
Another option is to grill on lower heat for a longer period of time.
5. Avoid grilling processed meats. Higher levels of carcinogens were found in hotdogs and sausage.
Everything in moderation! That includes grilled meats! Remember, the dangerous levels of HCAs and PAHs are possibly, maybe, could be, might be too small to make a difference. So don’t go nuts just in case!
Hope this was helpful!