While it’s commonly believed that eating grilled food may increase your risk of heart disease and cancer, research reveals that the food you grill is “more important than how you grill it.”
Experts from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), a non-profit research and education organization that specializes in the link between lifestyle habits and cancer risk, shared advice about how individuals can stay healthy and prevent cancer when grilling.
Although there is no definitive data that connects grilling to cancer risk, cooking meat at high temperatures via this method can produce two main types of potential carcinogens: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
PAHs are found in smoke and they can stick to the meat on an open fire. On the other hand, HCAs form in meat when the meat proteins react to the high temperature of the grill.
Alice Bender, the Head of Nutrition Programs at AICR, said that when we cook meat at a high temperature, such as by grilling, we also create substances that can cause changes in DNA that may lead to cancer. She added that while the research is fascinating, in the end, what matters is what you cook, not the method used to cook the food.
Data from previous research shows that diets high in red meat can increase an individual’s risk of colorectal cancer. Even regularly consuming small amounts of processed meats may increase the risk for both colorectal and stomach cancers. (Related: Reduce Toxins and Enjoy a Healthier BBQ.)
Because of these findings, the AICR cautions individuals to limit their intake of red meat to no more than 18 ounces of cooked meat weekly. They also warned against the consumption of grilled hot dogs and other processed meats like bacon and sausages.
Bender cautioned that unlike processed meats, grilled fruits and vegetables don’t form HCAs. These delicious alternatives are another reason for you to “grill more plant foods, cut the hot dogs, and limit the size of your burger.”
Here are some grilling tips from the AICR:
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some fruits and vegetables that you can grill:
You can learn more about grilling tips to minimize cancer risk at Cancer.news.