Does grilling meat increase cancer risk?

Summer is here and that means grilling family favorites in the backyard or picnic area. Many people are already aware of the recommendations to wash hands after handling raw meats, to keep fresh food preparation separate from raw meat preparation, and to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. But what about this cancer risk?

Grilling meat is often suggested as a healthy way to prepare beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Cooking these muscle meats at high temperatures, however, may increase one’s intake of heterocyclic amines.  These are breakdown products of creatine, an amino acid found in protein foods.  These chemicals that are linked to cancer can form during any high-heat cooking method including frying. More time on the grill or in the frying pan means more of these chemicals forming in the meat.

Grilling adds another specific danger, moreover, from the smoke and char that forms while meat cooks. As the fat and juices from the meat drip onto hot coals or grill surfaces, other compounds also linked to cancer form and are then carried to the meat in the resulting smoke or flames. The char that is often valued for color and rich flavor also contains these compounds.

Research has shown these compounds to cause cancer in animals, and human studies suggest that the chemicals could be associated with colon and stomach cancers.

Thankfully, there are steps that one can take to reduce risk and still enjoy a Sunday barbecue.

  • Clean the grill with hot, soapy water and a brush to remove previous, cooked-on residue.
  • Trim excess fat or use lean cuts of meats and poultry for grilling. This will reduce flame flares.
  • Marinate meats in a citrus or vinegar-based marinade. Food research shows that marinades reduce the formation of cancer-forming compounds.  And some of the marinades add healthy antioxidants.
  • Precook meats in the microwave before grilling to reduce the time on the grill.  Be sure to throw out the juices that accumulate on the dish–the juice could contain unsafe bacteria. Immediately place the meat on the grill and cook to the proper internal temperature.
  • Slice meats thinner to reduce cooking time. Grill lean meats instead of sausage, brats or fatty cuts of meat.
  • Keep the grill covered. This will reduce fire flare-ups and amounts of char.
  • Turn the meat frequently to further reduce charring. Cut away any charred or burned portions before eating.
  • Be adventurous and grill a greater variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and alternatives to meat, including soy and veggie burgers.

With a little forethought and a watchful eye, the afternoon barbecue can still be a satisfying, delicious, and also healthy food experience. Happy grilling!


Foods that offer nutrients for healthy skin

According to InStyle, women spend $15,000 on cosmetics during their lives. In addition, billions are also paid for cosmetic surgery.  People might be overlooking an easier and less expensive way to achieve a youthful glow.

Citrus fruits, the group that includes oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, contain the essential nutrient vitamin C. This vitamin is an antioxidant, a substance that helps prevent and repair damage to cells. This damage can come from medications, sun exposure, and the environment.

Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein that gives skin tissue firmness and strength. Firmer skin means fewer wrinkles. Healthy skin cells also mean improved moisture retention to combat dryness.

Other sources of vitamin C include most berries, kiwi, papaya, green and red peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and melons.

Tomatoes help the skin in two ways, first as a source of vitamin C and second as a source of the antioxidant lycopene. This nutrient also gives tomatoes their red color. For those readers that enjoy fresh tomatoes, consider that these vegetables offer the most lycopene when eaten cooked. And being fat-soluble, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when eaten with a source fat, such as heart-healthy olive oil.

Tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup all contribute this important nutrient. Other sources of lycopene include watermelon and ruby-red grapefruit.

Another pigment that offers benefits for skin is beta-carotene, found in orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, pumpkin and other winter squashes all offer this nutrient. Beta carotene is used by the body to make vitamin A, and is also another antioxidant. Note a trend here?

Although not orange in color, dark green veggies contribute beta-carotene to the diet, too. Spinach, kale, turnip greens, peas, green peppers, and broccoli are rich sources of this nutrient.

Last on the list are fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. These provide the essential fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids. Most know that omega-3’s protect the heart, but these fats also promote healthy skin by keeping moisture in the cells and helping to form collagen. Although animal sources of omega-3’s have been shown to be stronger when compared to plant sources, the body can convert some the plant omega-3’s to a form used by the body. Plant sources include walnuts, soy, flax, and chia seeds.

Next time you shop for that perfect shade of eye shadow, make sure to pick up some fresh produce and salmon, too.