Yesterday was the first official day of summer, which means now is the time for many to dust off the old grill and give it a healthy summer workout.
Temperatures have already skyrocketed in many locations, and thanks to Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, many already know that using sunscreen and protective clothing is a great way to prevent skin cancer. However, did you know that following a few simple grilling instructions could decrease your risk of developing other forms of cancer?
"Diets that feature big portions of red and processed meat have been shown to make colorectal cancer more likely,” says American Institute for Cancer Research Dietitian Alice Bender, MS, RD. “Evidence that grilling itself is a risk factor is less strong, but it only makes sense to take some easy cancer-protective precautions."
In addition to the risks that come from a heavy meat-based diet, when you add high heat into the mix the risks go up. Meat, poultry or fish cooked at high temperatures, especially well-done or charred, can prompt heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. These chemical compounds cause changes in DNA that can increase risk factors for colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers.
According to Bender, there are two changes that you can make to avoid raising your cancer risks: what you grill and how you grill it. Here are some changes to consider making this summer:
1. Throw Fruits and Veggies Onto the Grill: Cut down on the amount of red and processed meat this summer by adding more fruits and vegetables to the grill. Either replace the meat all together, or lower your portions of meat while increasing the amount of fruits and veggies.
2. Marinate First: Marinating meat has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs. This could be because of the acids or antioxidants in the marinade, but researchers aren't 100 percent sure why.
3. Try Different Meats: Instead of only grilling burgers and hot dogs, try chicken or fish. While cooking these meats over high heat is still a risk, at least you are taking the red and processed meats out of the equation.
4. Pre-cook: Grilling for a long period of time over high heat is partially the problem when it comes to HCAs. If you cook the meat first in the microwave, oven or stove, this can reduce the time that the meat is exposed to high heat that comes out of a grill. Be sure to put the meat on the grill immediately after it is precooked.
5. Cook Longer at Lower Heat: Another way to lessen the amount of HCAs is to cook the meat for longer at a lower temperature. Also, cut off any charred portions of meat.
6. Try Organic Meat: Choosing organic meat can reduce your exposure to antibiotics and growth hormones. Learn more about cooking organic meat.
Have a happy and healthy summer!