Smoking, charring, or grilling meat at high temperature directly over an open flame, creates carcinogens, called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs). These carcinogens can cause DNA changes that may lead to cancer.
Risk of carcinogens formation is higher from red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and even small amount of processed meats (Carcinogen: Nitrosamine compounds) – like sausage, ham, bacon, salami, hamburgers. To reduce such risks, here are 6 tips for healthy grilling:
1. Choice of Protein:
• DO choose: Poultry, Fish, Firm-pressed Tofu, Tempeh
• DON’T choose: Red meat & Processed Meat
• Evidence is clear that diets high in red and processed meat are linked to increased risk for colorectal cancer regardless of how you cook it. Grilling increases the formation of carcinogens.
2. Lean Cuts: Trimming the fat off protein can reduce flare-ups and charring.
3. Do Marinate!
• Besides contributing a boost of flavour, marinating meat before grilling can reduce the formation of HCAs.
• Marinate meat for at least 30 minutes.
• Use vinegar, lemon, olive oil, onion, garlic, herbs, spices for more antioxidants.
4. Pre-Cook before Grilling:
• Partially cook your meat by using a microwave, oven, or stove first.
• This is to reduce the time your meat is exposed to the flames and smoke, and thus reduce the formation of PAHs.
• For food safety, reduce holding time between pre-cooking and grilling.
5. Lower Heat:
• Grilling meat over low flame reduces the formation of HCAs, and helps minimising burning and charring.
• Cut off any charred portions of meat before serving.
6. Add Colourful Fruits & Vegetables (F&V)!
• Cut down the proportion of your meat, and add more variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, it tastes great!
• Not only does it add colour, flavour, and juiciness, a diet rich in F&V is associated with lower cancer risk.
• Grilling vegetables and fruits will not produce any HCAs, and will also shorten overall cooking time.
• Colourful F&V contains dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, and naturally occurring antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are cancer-fighting nutrients.