Grilling and summer go hand in hand. As we kick off the summer this Memorial day, with the many delicious things we can make on the BBQ, it’s also important to know how to grill foods safely so they are not harmful to our health. 

Grilling with high heat can turn protein in red and white meat, and fish into harmful chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that studies have linked to cancers, notably breast, colon, stomach, and prostate cancers. Fat drippings and juices cause another grilling danger by creating smoke when coming in contact with hot charcoals or flames. The smoke can rise and stick to the meat creating another potentially harmful type of carcinogen known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Luckily, there are things that can be done to keep grilling safe for your next BBQ.

Our top safe grilling tips for cancer patients:

  • Buy lean cuts of meat. They will create less drippings and therefore less smoke. For beef choose at least 90% lean, and opt for white meat over dark meat poultry.
  • Clean your grill. Old chemicals may transfer from the grill to your food.
  • Choosing smaller cuts of meat will limit exposure time on the grill and reduce risk of carcinogens. Kebabs are great for this. You can even pre-cook meats and vegetables in the oven, remove some of the drippings and finish them off on the grill.
  • Trim excess fat and remove skin from meat, this will cut down on the drippings and smoke.
  • Avoid processed meats like sausages and hot dogs. These processed meats contain other carcinogens that may be even more harmful to our health than those caused by grilling.
  • Marinate your meats. Marinating has been found to be anti-carcinogenic. Use light marinades like those made with lemon and vinegar. Spices and herbs have also been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends marinating meat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Avoid flames near your food by putting meat or veggies on a sheet of foil. For meat, poke holes in the bottom to let drippings fall. The foil will protect food from smoke and cut back on high flame flares.
  • Flip burgers and meats often to make sure they are not charring. Discard charred meats or vegetables.
  • Grill tofu or vegetables that do not have proteins that can transform into harmful chemicals. Just make sure they do not char.
  • Eat grilled foods in moderation. Even following all of these safety tips, grilled food will still have carcinogens.
  • When eating meat, remember to include plenty of fruits and veggie sides to maintain a healthy diet. Fruits and veggies are found to be cancer protective and are an essential part of any healthy diet. 

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