The American Institute For Cancer Research Offers Grilling Advice

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They say it's the most frequently asked question around this time of year: how do you make backyard grilling healthier?

"Two aspects of the traditional American cookout—what you grill and how you grill it, can potentially raise cancer risk," says American Institute For Cancer Research (AICR) Dietitian Alice Bender, MS, RD. "Diets that feature big portions of red and processed meat have been shown to make colorectal cancer more likely. Evidence that grilling itself is a risk factor is less strong, but it only makes sense to take some easy cancer-protective precautions."

When meat, poultry or fish is cooked at high temperatures, in particular when cooked well-done or even charred, cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are created. In theory at least, these substances raise one's cancer risk because of their perceived ability to damage DNA.

"The good news is that there are four simple strategies you can use to make allowances, manage risks, and grill more safely," said Bender.

Get the Red (Meat) Out, Add Other Colors

Instead of red meat, or just red meat, think about other colors. First grill colorful vegetables and fruits,such as asparagus, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant and corn on the cob, and cut back on the amount of red and processed meat on your cookout menu. "Plant foods contain a variety of naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals, many of which provide their own anti-cancer protection."

Marinate the Meat

Mix it up with chicken or fish, as opposed to burgers and hot dogs. But whatever meat you choose, whip up a marinade with some of your preferred herbs as well as vinegar or lemon juice. Marinate it in the fridge.

Doing so has been demonstrated to reduce the formation of HCAs, although it's not known exactly why.

Partially Pre-Cook

Use the microwave, oven or stove to reduce the time that meat sits on the grill exposed to high heat. "To ensure safe food handling, just be sure to put the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill immediately to complete cooking."

Go Slow And Low

Reduce the HCAs PAHs in and on meat by slowing down cooking time. Use a low flame and keep burning and charring to a minimum.

Also: "Cut off any visible fat (to reduce flare-ups), cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side (to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them) and cut off any charred portions of the meat."

Source: AICR

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