Here is what we do know: cooking meat at a high temperature – like when grilling – creates substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Smoking or charring also contributes to the formation of PAHs. These substances are carcinogens, with the potential to cause changes in the DNA that may increase cancer risk. And whether or not you grill them, high amounts of burgers and other red meats increase risk of colorectal cancer. Hot dogs and other processed meats increase risk of both colorectal and stomach cancers. Based on the evidence, AICR recommends limiting red meat to 18 ounces of cooked meat per week and staying away from processed meats. What you cook matters most, cut back on red meat and replace hot dogs and sausages with fish, chicken, veggies and fruit. But when you do grill meat or other animal protein, follow these tips to help reduce formation of those risky substances.
Studies have suggested that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease the formation of HCAs. Scientists theorize that the antioxidants in these marinades block HCAs from forming.
If you are grilling larger cuts, you can reduce the time your meat is exposed to the flames by partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or on the stove first. Immediately place the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill. This helps keep your meat safe from bacteria and other food pathogens that can cause illness.
Trimming the fat off your meat can reduce flare-ups and charring. Cook your meat in the center of the grill and make sure to flip it frequently.
Mix It Up
Cutting meat into smaller portions and mixing in veggies can help shorten cooking time.
Grilling vegetables and fruits produces no HCAs — and plant-based foods are actually associated with lower cancer risk.
Grilled Peaches with Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad
Grilling fruits is a delicious way to eat more fiber, nutrients and cancer-protective compounds. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about the potentially cancer-causing compounds that form when meat is grilled.
- Cooking spray
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 3 medium peaches, pitted and cut into 6 wedges
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 10 cups arugula, loosely packed
- 2 Tbsp goat cheese
Prepare grill to high heat. Spray grill rack with cooking spray and set aside.
In small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vinegar is reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in honey. Cool to room temperature.
Place peach wedges on grill rack. Grill 30 seconds on each side or until grill marks appear but peaches are still firm. Remove from grill and set aside.
In large bowl, combine oil, salt and pepper. Add arugula, tossing gently to coat. Arrange arugula mixture on platter. Top with peach wedges, balsamic syrup and cheese.
Makes 10 servings.
Per serving: 124 calories, 5 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 19 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 38 mg sodium.