As registered dietitians and summertime lovers, just the smell of the barbeque makes us happy. Not only do barbeques offer the chance to be with friends and relax, they provide opportunities to be healthier than many other social gatherings. That’s because they typically have fun outdoor games that include physical activity, and tossing food on the barbeque is an ideal way to create delicious meals and keep them lean without having to fry or add calorie-laden fat. However, there can be a downside—it’s possible to exposure you and your family to grilling carcinogens if you don’t know to watch out for it.
Heterocyclic amines, also known as HCAs, and other chemicals are created when meats are cooked at high temperatures and browned. Exposure to high levels of these chemicals has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Although it’s uncertain whether exposure causes cancer in humans, it’s best to avoid these chemicals, particularly HCAs. The good news is you can still enjoy your beloved summer barbecues and lower the risk of creating HCA’s by following these guidelines:
- The more you cook and dry out your meat, the more HCAs are created. Cook your meat thoroughly, but avoid overcooking and charring your meat.
- Turn over your burger every minute and you’ll slash HCAs by 75 to 90 percent by keeping the surface temperature lower.
- Microwave your burger for the first 90 seconds to two minutes of cooking and drain off the juices. This helps removed 90 percent of HCAs.
- Avoid the temptation to consume the drippings. Surprisingly, the drippings of well-done meat or poultry can have more HCAs then the meat does. Fewer drippings is another reason to choose low-fat meats.
- Marinating your meat is a great way to flavor your food and it reduces the carcinogens, too. Dipping your food in marinade, squeezing lemon or lime on it right before grilling or soaking it for hours will all help lower the HCAs.
Here are some scrumptious recipes that help to eliminate carcinogens.
Easy Marinade Recipes
- Hawaiian Protein Roll-Ups
- Tangerine Skewers
- Grilled Pineapple Turkey Burgers
Note: The raw mixture with the soy sauce acts like a marinade. Squeeze lemon over burgers for additional carcinogen protection.
Seafood not only offers mood-boosting, heart-healthy omega-3 fats, it also has fewer HCAs as long as you don’t char it.
- Grilled Spice Tuna or Grilled Spiced Halibut
- Barbecue Salmon
- Cumin-Crusted Scallops with Cucumber and Pine Nut Salad
Note: These scallops aren’t pre-marinated, but they are rubbed in spices, which also cut HCAs.
Vegetables create few, if any, HCAs, so consider choose a veggie burger or other vegetable-based main course. Plus, grilling veggies like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies may help your liver to detoxify HCAs and other chemicals. Veggies are also packed with powerful phytonutrients that protect cells from damage such as those caused by carcinogens.
- Grilled Egg-plant
- Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach and Feta Portobello Burger
- Roasted Red Pepper Eggplant with Feta
- Summertime Seasoned Grilled Vegetables
- Balsamic Grilled Eggplant
- Grilled Romaine Hearts