Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are potent cancer-causing agents. They form when meat is cooked at high temperatures. HCAs also form with frying, broiling and smoking, but not baking. High intake of grilled meat is linked with cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and pancreas.
HCAs build up on all flesh foods—meat, poultry and fish (not fruit or vegetables)—four minutes after the temperature reaches 325°F. The longer the cooking time and the higher the temperature, the more HCAs are formed.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed after the fat on the meat melts from the high temperature, drips onto the coals and then reattaches itself to the meat through the smoke.There are ways to reduce your exposure to these carcinogens:
- Reduce the frequency and serving size of grilled meat
- Choose leaner cuts, this results in less dripping fat causing flare-ups
- Flip the meat frequently
- Reduce the heat—cooking at slightly lower temperatures is enough to substantially reduce formation of HCAs
- Cut off the charred portions and don’t eat them
- Use a marinade—studies have shown that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease formation of HCAs by up to 96 percent
Using a marinade like the tip above suggests can have some exciting culinary results. The marinade should include beneficial plant ingredients. Spice rubs are popular now and these are great—you can rub these onto solid meat or add these to your recipes when you work with ground meat such as making burgers. Here are some examples:
- Herbs and spices especially rosemary leaves or extract
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Green or black tea
- Lemon juice
If you’re not sure where to start, begin with rosemary. Rosemary has a good track record in research studies. According to Bon Appetite Magazine, here is the basic formula for making a marinade:
Here are some combinations that work well together:
- Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, oregano and thyme
- Orange juice, lime juice, cilantro, salt and ginger
- White wine, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper
Want some marinade recipes? Check out this blog by bonappetite website.
I am wishing you delicious, healthy grilling this summer! Check back for some healthy grilled veggie recipes that I will be sharing soon!
*In a study on the effectiveness of 3 different types of beer on the reduction of PAHs on grilled pork, black beer was the most effective followed by non-alcoholic pilsner and pilsner (see reference list below for more details)
Healing Spices. Bharat B. Aggarwal with Debora Yost. Sterling, 2011. Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health. Liz Pearson and Marilyn Smith. Whitecap, 2007. American Institute for Cancer Research http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?id=15485 Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork. 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf404966w J Food Sci. 2011 Oct;76(8):T174-80. Inhibitory activity of Asian spices on heterocyclic amines formation in cooked beef patties. Puangsombat K1, Jirapakkul W, Smith JS. J Food Sci. 2010 Mar;75(2):T40-7. Inhibition of heterocyclic amine formation in beef patties by ethanolic extracts of rosemary. Puangsombat K1, Smith JS.