Safe grilling concerns emerge when summer arrives and many flock to outdoor events and picnics.
During a Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Multi-Center Screening Trial, (some years ago) researchers found evidence that indicates consuming meat that is charred or burnt can pose health risks.
Specifically, individuals who ignore safe grilling rules and eat burnt meat increase their risk of pancreatic cancer. This finding holds true for meats cooked not only on the barbeque, but also when grilled or fried, versus traditional baking or stewing methods.
Participants in the trial provided detailed information regarding the amount of meat they eat and their preferred cooking methods. Based on this data, the findings indicate that 60 percent of subjects who prefer over-done steak were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
These findings are interesting considering health agendas have more often focused on the importance of cooking meat thoroughly to prevent food poisoning, when in fact overcooking boasts its own risks.
Furthermore, the risk of contracting food poisoning is actually much less than the risk of exposing yourself to grilling chemicals that can cause cancer.
Now back to the picnic scene and safe grilling.
How can we protect ourselves from unhealthy cooking practices while camping or grilling out?
The best method of prevention is education and learning about safe grilling techniques.
Let's first take a look at the primary cooking culprits.
There are three cooking-induced chemicals to pay attention to - Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
Each chemical presents health compromises that can be avoided if you practice safe grilling.
When foods are cooked at a high temperature to the point of charring, the meat can be linked to cancer. The most dangerous part of the meat is the areas that are blackened. Never char meat when grilling and if you do, do not eat the blackened parts because it contains HCAs.
Probably something most don't consider when grilling is the fat that drips onto a flame or heat source and creates excess smoke. This smoke actually contains the PAH chemical and can transfer to the meat and thus into the body.
Food cooked at a rapid pace encourages the formation of AGEs within the meat. This includes even sterilized or pasteurized meat products. The food holds those AGE and transfers it into the body when it is consumed. Over time, AGE can build up in the body and spark inflammation, oxidative stress, and added risk of kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease.
In addition, overcooked meat is more difficult for the body to digest. The harder the food is to digest, the longer it stays in the stomach making it harder to absorb the food.
Overcooked meat also affects the body's ability to function on a cellular level and therefore can be toxic to the entire body.
Now that you understand how and why these chemicals can be harmful, does this mean summer grilling is a no-go this year? Absolutely not!
Tailgaters, picnickers and campers can grill safely by keeping some tips in mind.
Marinating meat is one of the easiest ways to cut down on exposure to the chemicals associated with grilling.
Research suggests that utilizing a beer or red wine marinade can cut down on exposure to HCAs by 90 percent. To marinate the meat, allow it to sit in the marinade for approximately six hours prior to cooking.
Marinating with red wine works for both steak and chicken. HCAs can also be cut down by soaking chicken in a lemon juice, olive oil and garlic marinade.
Do not overcook your meat, but instead eat it at a medium or medium-rare level.
Avoid eating charred meat too.
Instead of consuming large amounts of grilled foods, opt for other types of raw meats and vegetables rich in phytonutrients.
Fatty meats contain larger amounts of compromising chemicals. Cook less of these types of meat on the grill or trim the fat before cooking to avoid additional exposure.
When cooking food on a grill, utilize indirect heat by using a grill rack or cedar plank as a cooking surface area.
When grilling hamburgers, continue to flip them and this will cut down on HCAs.
Adding cherries or blueberries to hamburgers can actually prevent the formation of dangerous HCAs. Plus the natural vitamins in fruits are health enhancing.
Grilling processed meats such as bratwursts, hot dogs, and chorizos bears even more danger than over grilling traditional meat.
Organic meats and meats from grass-fed animals are less likely to spark food poisoning. These foods can be safely consumed at lower cooked levels such as medium rare.
Eating foods that are medium rare or rare offers several health benefits and is protective by helping one consume markedly less or no cancer causing chemicals.