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Barbeques and Carcinogens

Everyone loves a summer barbecue. But does grilling cause harmful carcinogens?

When you barbecue meats such as chicken and hamburgers, the fats drip onto the coals. This causes a flare of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to occur. As the smoke surrounds the meat during the cooking process, it transfers these carcinogenic PAH’s back onto the meat. And when you grill meat at high temperatures for long periods of time, a reaction in the food creates HCA’s (heterocyclic amines). It is known that PAH’s and HCA’s cause cancer in animals. Charcoal and gas grilling automatically exposes foods to high temperatures, therefore, it's best to try and limit your exposure to these carcinogens as much as possible.

Providing healthy meals for family and friends means having an awareness of not only what kinds of foods you are preparing, but how you are cooking them as well.

How do you reduce the carcinogens in your food when you still want to grill?

  • Choose Gas Grills - With gas grills you have the option of controlling the flame, and therefore you have some control over the cooking temperature.

  • Choose Lean Meats - Not only are they better for heart health, they can also help stop the formation of PAH’s as less fat drippings means fewer carcinogens.

  • Choose Veggies – Grilled vegetables do not create carcinogens.

  • Cook Medium to Rare - Try to refrain from burning or charring your meats.

  • Marinate - add a preparation of herbs and spices such as turmeric, basil, and rosemary to meat prior to grilling.

  • Prepare Salads - by preparing a large side of salad, family members will naturally fill up on more leafy greens, which helps add antioxidants into the body.

The bottom Line is that you don’t need to ditch grilling all together. Just be more aware of how and what you are cooking, how high a temperature you are cooking at and use these simple tips to help make your cookouts less carcinogenic.

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