CAN GRILLING CAUSE CANCER? 3 TIPS TO SAFELY BBQ

Summer’s just around the corner, which means the grill is ready to be fired up! Get to know the safer way to BBQ.


BY: JESSICA SPIRO, RD, CLC

To grill or not to grill. That is the mixed message you hear in the news as we get closer to warmer weather. While some say grilling is an excellent way to cook healthfully, others say BBQing can cause cancer. So what’s the verdict?

Well, let’s back it up and take a look at why grilling gets a bad rap. Then let’s lay out what you can do to make sure you grill in the healthiest way possible.

Can grilling be harmful?

Yes and no. While there’s no better way to make your food leaner or more tasty than with one of America’s favorite summer pastimes, grilling meat- not veggies- at high temperatures can pose some danger. Grilling meat at very high heats leads to the formation of these carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs are created when grilling animal proteins at high temperatures and PAHs are formed when fat drips down into the grill.

The good news is you can avoid the harmful effects of grilling by following these 3 easy tips:

1. Grill veggies, fish and lean cuts of protein.

Since the carcinogenic compounds result from cooking fatty animal protein at very high temperatures, BBQing your favorite fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins like tofu or seitan are fine.

So what about fish since that’s not a plant protein? Well, since fish is generally cooked at lower heats for shorter times, then you are safe to grill fish, which is great news. After all, there’s nothing like grilled fish tacos during the summer!

2. Avoid charring your meat.

Who doesn’t love a good char! However, burning your meat to the point where those black marks show up is not so great for your health. The solution? Either char your veggies or if you do char meat, do it infrequently.

3. Use marinades.

Marinating your meats, poultry, and fish has been shown to reduce cancer-causing compounds. However, you have to choose your marinades wisely. Ones that incorporate citrus are great because they are rich in protective antioxidants. On the other hand, marinades that have honey or sugar can result in a higher likelihood of burning, which can create those cancer-causing compounds.

Bottom line: there’s no reason to avoid grilling! It is one of the best ways to add flavor and health to your cooking, and a great way to cook when hosting a summer party.

So get outside and grill away!

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: KRZYSZTOF PUSZCYNSKI

Jessica Spiro, RD, CLC is a registered dietitian nutritionist from Encinitas, CA specializing in pre- and post-natal nutrition, as well as cancer, food allergies, diabetes management, and heart health. Check out more fun recipe ideas and nutrition tips with Jessica!

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