What's Up With Grilling Foods and HCA's?

Jul 10


Melinda Kempenich

Melinda Kempenich

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It’s summer and we all love to grill. Lots of us grill in the winter as well, that’s how much we love it. Now we hear cancer ... are snooping around our love affair with grilling foods. If you


It’s summer and we all love to grill. Lots of us grill in the winter as well,What's Up With Grilling Foods and HCA's? Articles that’s how much we love it. Now we hear cancer researchers are snooping around our love affair with grilling foods. If you are like most of us, when you hear the word cancer your ears perk up. So are grilling those beloved hamburgers and hotdogs a threat to your health?

From what I understand, cancer researchers have found that grilling red meat, poultry, and fish causes the formation of carcinogenic compounds called HCA’s (heterocyclic amine). And, when fat from our grilling cuisine drips onto hot coals, another group of cancer-causing substances is formed. These are PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) which are deposited onto the food through the smoke and flames.

The good news is, that researchers actually strongly disagree whether or not eating grilled foods actually pose a significant health risk. HCA’s have been linked to increased risk of cancers of the breast, colon, stomach, and prostrate, however, most of the evidence is based only on animal studies not humans.

So what should we do when the experts don’t agree? Maybe it makes the most sense to take some extra precautions when grilling rather than to give up one of the greatest gifts of summer. There are a few things we can do to minimize our exposure to carcinogens. The most effective way would be to marinate foods before grilling. Even brief marinating helps. In some studies, marinades have been found to reduce the amount of HCA’s formed by as much as 92 to 99 percent. Marinades may act as a barrier keeping flames from directly touching the meat. The ingredients within the marinade may also offer protection. Lots of marinades contain vitamin C, vitamin E and naturally-occurring compounds in herbs and spices that have cancer-fighting properties.

Some other ways to limit the formation of carcinogens would be to try grilling foods that pose less risk. Try foods like vegetables, fruits, veggie burgers, tofu, quesadillas and even pizza. You could also precook meat, poultry, and fish in an oven or microwave and then grill just for flavor. Chopping foods up into small pieces or making kebabs speeds up the cooking process so that the food spends less time on the grill. Also cooking food at a lower temperature by raising the grill rack a few inches might be helpful. New research suggests that flipping foods once per minute speeds up the cooking process, keeps meat from burning, and still effectively kills bacteria. If you punch holes in foil to either wrap food or cover the grill food will drain but will inhibit contact with the flame. Be sure to trim fat, which can drip into flames and cause flare-ups. Before eating, remove all charred or burnt pieces.

So while the researchers are busy researching, let’s enjoy our summer and grill using precautions. It just wouldn’t be right to have to give up grilling. Here are some formulas to make a quick marinade adding flavors of your choice. Makes 4 servings.

1 tsp to 1 Tbsp oil

¼ c liquid, like vinegar or juice

1 tsp dried herbs or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped

1-2 cloves crushed garlic

Asian: Sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic

Italian: olive oil, red wine vinegar, ginger, garlic

Southwest: oil, lime and orange juice, chile powder, garlic

Remember you want vitamin C, vitamin E and the naturally-occurring compounds in herbs and spices that have those cancer-fighting properties. Also keep in mind that enzymes are present naturally in raw foods that we eat. When we cook food we often destroy these enzymes. Enzymes break down food into basic components so that the body can absorb nutrients necessary for building cells, tissues, and organs. That’s why it is so important to provide the body with vital enzymes.

Happy Grilling!

Sources: American Institute for Cancer Research, Cell Tech International

Melinda Kempenich is the mother of three children and the wife of a State Representative from the great State of North Dakota. Her summers are often filled with many outdoor activities and great grilling affairs. If you would like to receive free “The Importance of Enzymes Booklet” please check out her website: Health So Serene at http://www.healthsoserene.info to request a copy, or e-mail her at mybabies58623@yahoo.com, she’d love to hear from you! You are also welcome to send your request to her at: Melinda Kempenich, 9005 151ST Ave SW, Bowman, ND 58623