Summer BBQ tips from Dr. Suzanna, ND
Barbequing is a way of life for most Canadians that provides an efficient and convenient way to put food on the table. However the problem is when cooking meats at high temperatures: Two types of hazardous compounds are formed when barbequing meats such as beef, pork, fish, chicken, or turkey. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when fat and juices from meat drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat. Another group of compounds, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed as a result of combustion when amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in meat react at high temperatures. Both compounds have been studied and have been linked to higher rates of various cancers due to their ability to greatly damage a person’s DNA.
“Well-done”, fried, smoked, and barbequed meats contain the highest levels of PAHs and HCAs. Although no federal guidelines exist to address the consumption/restriction of these foods, here are some suggestions to help minimize your exposure to PAHs/HACs and to make your grilling experience a bit less worrisome:
- Avoid exposing meat to a direct open flame for prolonged period of times at high temperatures. Flip the meat over rather than continuously leaving it on the heat source.
- Minimize the time your meat is on the barbeque by pre-cooking it on the stove or oven
- Use a cast iron skillet atop of the barbeque to reduce direct contact and meat/juices dripping onto the flames.
- Use leaner cuts of meat and remove all charred, blackened and fatty portions before you eat. These areas of the meat contain the highest amounts of PAHs and HCAs.
- Marinade your meat in olive oil and citrus juices to reduce the formation PAHs and HCAs and to give that extra flavor
- Use herbs high in antioxidants(basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, garlic and onion) to minimize free radical production.
Remember that a diet low in anti-oxidants pre-disposes us to free-radical damage. Be sure to round out your meal with a large salad and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. In addition, increasing your consumption of green tea may protect you against these chemically-induced cancers.
Lastly, consider supplementing your meal with antioxidants which reduce the production of free radicals that can contribute to an increased risk of illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.