Who doesn’t love a succulent steak or juicy burger cooked on the grill? It’s the taste of summertime. The bad news is that it can also increase your risk of developing colon cancer, since the grilling process forms potent cancer-causing substances on the meat. The good news is that there are specific things you can do when grilling to lower that ominous risk of cancer. Sprinkle this tasty seasoning on your burger and it could break up cancer-causing compounds that form during grilling. “By keeping five simple steps in mind, it’s possible to make this summer’s backyard grilling both healthier and more flavorful,” says Alice Bender, a registered dietitian at the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Five backyard grilling tips to reduce cancer risk:
1. Choose chicken and fish instead of steaks and burgers.
Grilled or not, many studies have shown that diets high in red meat or processed meats increase the risk of colon cancer. So eat red meat as a treat instead of a dietary staple and avoid processed meats, such as sausages and hot dogs. Instead, get creative with chicken and fish by adding spices, herbs, sauces and even hot peppers.
2. Marinate before you grill.
Marinating meat, poultry and fish for at least 30 minutes before you put it on the grill can reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are formed when cooking with a high heat. For the marinade, use a mixture of vinegar, herbs, spices and lemon juice or wine.
3. Cut the grill time.
The smoke that is generated by the grill creates other potentially cancer-causing substances, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), that form on the meat. You can significantly lower the amount of PAHs by partially cooking the meat in the microwave, stove or oven before you put it on the grill. Food safety tip: Immediately put the partially-cooked meat on the grill to prevent microbes that can cause illness.
4. Cook meat over a low flame.
Cooking with a lower flame can help reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHs. To do this, keep the fat and juices out of the fire, and cut off visible fat before grilling. You can also move the coals to one side of the grill and cook the meat in the center.
5. Remember the veggies!
Balance your meal by including lots of vegetables and fruits, which contain anti-cancer compounds. Onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, corn on the cob and tomatoes can be placed directly on the grill or in a grill basket.