Too many people believe that grilling food is not detrimental to one’s health and that the link between grilled meats and cancer is a myth. In reality, there are serious dangers related to consuming too much grilled foods, particularly meats.
It is well known that certain types of cooking reduce the nutritional value of foods. It is the same with grilling, which not only reduces nutritional value but grilling meats also forms heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Most HCAs are a known carcinogen and need to be kept at a minimum to reduce the risk of cancer and related diseases.
Two things you should know:
- HCAs are formed when amino acids, sugars and creatine react at high temperatures. The longer they are exposed to the high temperature, the more HCAs form.
- Grilling meats is just as potentially dangerous as frying and broiling as all these methods involve high temperatures. On the other hand, meats cooked at a safe temperature are not as problematic.
The Effect of HCAs on the Body
The intake of HCAs is detrimental not only in the long term due to an increased risk of cancer but can also be seen in the occurrence of other diseases and diagnoses.
- HCAs increase the risk of diabetes by causing a delay in post-meal glucose levels and reducing insulin output.
- HCAs also negatively affect DNA and contribute to genetic mutations in the body which lead to cancer.
How to Enjoy Healthy Grilling
- Unlike meats, grilling fruits and vegetables is safe and also brings out their natural flavours. Fruits and vegetables contain no HCAs at all which makes them the healthiest type of food you can grill.
- If grilling only vegetables is not entirely to your taste, opt for beef or fish. Grilled chicken contains 2 – 7 times more HCAs than other meats.
- Trim the fat off from meat before grilling it.
- Pre-cook meat on the stove or in the microwave to reduce its exposure to high temperatures during grilling.
- Grill meat on a surface which is not directly exposed to flames in order to reduce the temperature at which the meat is grilled. Gas and charcoal grilling often involve higher temperatures and can increase the formation of HCAs by up to 1000%.
- If the meat will be grilled for 30 minutes or less, marinate it in order to decrease the HCAs resulting from grilling. Be careful not to marinate meats which will be grilled for over 30 minutes as this can actually increase the presence of HCAs.
- Grilling meat rare or medium-rare reduces the rate of HCAs. Do this for a healthier option to well-done meats.
- Limit your consumption of grilled meats and meats in general in order to optimise health.
Grilled foods, especially meats, need to be kept in moderation in order to maintain health. This is one of the reasons why I chose to stick to a vegetarian diet almost a decade ago.
What it Means to Be a Vegetarian
Famous Vegetarians in Western History
12 Places to Look to Find Out What Your Body Needs