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Can barbecued food cause cancer? 8 tips for enjoying a healthier cookout!

This is the time of year when grilling and eating outdoors is the thing to do. It’s awesome! I love it! With an abundance of fresh local food it’s the tastiest time of the year.

But cooking meat on the barbecue can be a challenge. From the type of meat and the serving preference of your guests, the BBQ Chef has to keep on his or her toes. And now studies have shown that cooking meats at high temperatures may increase your risk of cancer. So much for enjoying that next bite of your char marked, cooked to perfection steak! But it’s not all bad. Let me explain.

HCAs, PAHs, AGEs – DNA altering carcinogens

When you barbecue a steak, or cook meat at high temperatures it creates compounds. The three main toxic compounds are: heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and advanced glycation end products (AGES). These carcinogens can cause changes in DNA that can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 60%, according to a study from the University of Minnesota. And according to a 13-year European study, HCAs may increase the risk of colorectal polyps, which may develop into cancer.

Cooked at really high temperatures, usually over 300 c, beef, pork, chicken and fish will create HCAs. PAHs develop from the incomplete combustion of oil and gets deposited on your meat when fat drips onto your coals or gas flame and causes flare-ups. AGEs also occur from high temperatures and accumulation over time leads to oxidative stress, inflammation, and increases risk of all chronic diseases such as heart and kidney disease and diabetes. These compounds cause leukemia and other cancers in rats.

But I’m not here to ruin your next BBQ!

Here are a few tips to reduce your BBQ cancer risks:

  1. The very first thing you should do is make sure your grill is clean. Remove any soot and burnt matter off your grill. This will reduce potential flare-ups. ***If cleaning grill with a metal brush*** watch for any metal pieces that can be left on the grill. That’s why I always wipe the grill off with a cloth or paper towel that has some oil on it after brushing it. You’d be amazed at what the brush left behind!

  2. Choose lean meats and remove excess fat before you put them on the BBQ. And if you can, go organic, or grass fed meats. (That’s a whole other issue, but better for you!) When you get your meat from a high quality source (local organic is best) you can cook the meat as little as possible. Rare or medium-rare at most.

  3. If you do char your meat, trim it off before eating it.

  4. Prepare the grill with grapeseed oil as it has a smoke point of 400 degrees whereas extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees. Avocado oil’s is 520 degrees but grapeseed oil is a lot cheaper.

  5. Marinate your meat with a simple mix of avocado, olive or coconut oil and lemon or lime juice. This can reduce levels of HCAs by 90% in bbq chicken. Red wine or beer marinade (6 hrs required) can also reduce HCA’s by 90%. This is partly because it prevents flare ups as you cook. Our personal favourite for a marinade is avocado oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and garlic powder. Avoid store bought BBQ sauces which have a lot of sugar in them and when BBQ’d, create a large amount of AGE’s. WtW members know sugar promotes cancer. Adding spices to your marinade or sauces such as rosemary, garlic, onion actually can decrease your toxin load significantly.

  6. Cook on a lower setting, which makes it harder for your meat to burn or char.

  7. For a change of pace, grill some fish instead of red meat. Grill veggies or fruit which results in NO HCA’s! Make sure you reduce your heat or use the upper rack. You’ll still get that grilled flavor! Also, vegetables can reverse or cancel out your carcinogen risk.

  8. After grilling, clean your grill right away while it’s still hot. It is a lot easier to clean, and it will be ready to use next time.

Follow these suggestions to help with your fifth fundamental: Detoxification.

Having a nice glass of red wine with your steak is also great way to enjoy it and it has its’ own health benefits as well.



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