Your Grill and Cancer – What’s the Connection?

July 21, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Grilling is a summertime event. But is there a cancer connection?

“In January, 2005 ,The National Institute of Health, Dept. of Health and Human Services officially added heterocyclic amines, chemicals created during the grilling of meat to its hit list of cancer causing agents.” Source: The American Academy of Anti Aging.

Heterocyclic amines??

These are the cancer risk chemicals formed when cooking the muscle meats like pork, chicken, beef and even fish.

The Cancer Project Lists the Top Five Worst Foods to Grill:

1. Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, grilled, well done (the worst)

2. Steak grilled and well done

3. Pork barbecue

4. Salmon grilled with skin

5. Hamburger grilled and well done

Elizabeth Schaub, registered and licensed dietitian on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, explains. “When you grill meat some of the fat does drip down on to the charcoal and when fat meets that really high temperature it develops a carcinogen and the smoke carries the carcinogen back up to the meat which can be dangerous for our bodies.” Source: Medical News Today.

I don’t know about you but I am seriously groaning right now. Give up the grill? Maybe not.

Certainly we could cook only veggie burgers, and vegetables. They produce no carcinogens and yes, are a satisfying option.

But what can those of us who enjoy grilled, meat, fish and poultry do to cut down the cancer risk?

  • Reduce the time on the grill. Precook your meat, fish and poultry
  • Keep the grill clean to reduce carcinogenic smoke
  • Buy lean cuts to cut down on the grease drips that cause smoke
  • Trim the fat and remove the skin before grilling
  • Don’t char your meat, fish or chicken
  • Reduce grill time by cutting up your food and skewering it
  • Try placing foil on the grill to eliminate grease fed smoke

The August issue of SELF magazine recommends marinating the meat with herbs such as basil and oregano to reduce carcinogens by 87%.

This is doable.

In fact, try this recipe for Beef and Vegetable Kebabs from Mayo Clinic


1/2 cup brown rice
2 cups water
4 ounces top sirloin (choice)
3 tablespoons fat-free Italian dressing
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 4 pieces
4 cherry tomatoes
1 small onion, cut into 4 wedges
2 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, or metal skewers

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the rice and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary to keep the rice from drying out. Transfer to a small bowl to keep warm.

Cut the meat into 4 equal portions. Put the meat in a small bowl and pour Italian dressing over the top. Put in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to marinate, turning as needed.

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or a broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.

Thread 2 cubes of meat, 2 green pepper slices, 2 cherry tomatoes and 2 onion wedges onto each skewer. Place the kebabs on the grill rack or broiler pan. Grill or broil the kebabs for about 5 to 10 minutes, turning as needed.

Divide the rice onto individual plates. Top with 1 kebab and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information is available here.

And check out Bobby Flay’s Low-Fat Kebabs Made with Shellfish and Veggies!

Yum. Fire up that grill!


CBS VIDEO: Can Grilling Meat Increase Cancer Risk?

Washington Post . Com: Cancer Group Gives Barbecue a Grilling

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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