While many of us enjoy a slightly charred hotdog or a nice grilled burger during the warm-weather months, there may be reason to think twice about those choices.
When meat (beef, pork, poultry or fish) is cooked on a grill over an open flame, chemicals are created that have been shown to increase the risk of developing some cancers.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the chemicals (called HCAs and PAHs, also referred to as carcinogens) are formed when high temperatures (above 300°) are used to cook meat and also when fat and juices from the meat drip onto the fire, causing flames.
The longer the meat is cooked, the more chance there is that carcinogens will form.
It’s important to remember that eating grilled meat doesn’t necessarily cause cancer, but that there is a connection between the two.
To lessen your risk, follow these grilling tips from Carilion Clinic’s Dining and Nutrition Services team:
You can reduce carcinogens by cooking with herbs and using vinegar- and lemon-based marinades.
- Consume meat in moderation
- Choose whole meats instead of processed meats like hot dogs and sausages as much as possible
- Choose lean meats and trim excess fat before grilling to reduce dripping
- Use vinegar- or lemon-based marinades before grilling, and use herbs; studies have shown that this reduces the levels of carcinogens
- Avoid charring or burning the meat when you grill it; if you do char the meat, scrape away the char before you eat
- Don’t forget the veggies! Grilled vegetables (and fruits, like this grilled peaches recipe) are not only delicious, they don’t form carcinogens. Plus, a diet high in fruits and vegetables also provides you with cancer-fighting nutrients.
For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute.