Safe grilling tips

Seven tips for healthier grilling

MINNEAPOLIS - We're finally emerging from Minnesota's predictably erratic spring temperatures. As warmer weather starts to settle in for good, folks are beginning to fire up their grills and enjoy this all-too-defining characteristic of Minnesota summers.

There's no arguing that grilling can be both fun and tasty. But it is also true that grilling can increase the risk for cancer – not just because of the common types of grilled foods, but because of the chemical process of grilling itself. Sarah Barts, a registered dietitian with Minnesota Oncology, stopped by the KARE 11 studio to provide seven steps for safe grilling.

1. Limit red meat, pork, and lamb intake

Weekly consumption of more than 18 ounces of these types of foods has been linked to cancer. When grilling, be mindful of how many of those steaks and pork chops you munch on.

2. Avoid processed meats

Burgers, hot dogs, and brats are some of the most common grilling foods, but are also highly processed. These processed foods usually contain nitrates, which are strongly linked to colorectal cancer. When possible, avoid consuming processed meats.

3. Avoid overcooked, charred meats

Overcooked meats have a higher level of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a chemical produced when proteins in meat are exposed to high heat. HCAs have been linked to several types of cancers. Keep an eye on the temperature of your meats when cooking, and if it's past well-done, just don't eat it.

4. Minimize meat's exposure to high heat and flames/smoke

Fat drippings often hit grill coals or flames, causing a white smoke containing chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which stick to the meat. PAHs can cause changes in our DNA and increase our risk for cancer. To avoid this, use a high-grade grill pan or cast iron pan when cooking, creating a barrier for your food.

5. Use smaller cuts of meat

Using a smaller cut of meat can dramatically reduce the amount of time that meat is exposed to high heat and smoke, decreasing many of the risks mentioned above. When possible, try grilling kebabs instead of a full steak or chicken breast, or flipping your meats more frequently.

6. Marinating is good

Studies have shown that using marinades before grilling can reduce those cancer-causing HCA chemicals. Marinade away!

7. Include veggies!

Your kindergarten teacher was right – vegetables are good for you, and can in fact help prevent cancer. Grilled vegetables can also be delicious. Do your health a favor and throw more broccoli on the grill this summer.

Minnesota Oncology is a group of more than 80 oncology and hematology specialists dedicated solely to the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers and blood disorders. It has 11 locations across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.


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