Does Barbecuing Cause Cancer?

It’s GRILLING Season!

But there’s some controversy about grilling — is it TRULY healthy?

Is there truth to the thought that barbecuing and grilling can be unhealthy?

Well, yes and no.

We grill regularly — most days of the week from spring – fall.

Not just for the flavor, but it’s a healthy way to cook from a fat and calorie perspective too.  You don’t have to add oil, butter, or other ingredients like you do if cooking indoors.

And there’s little to no cleanup, which might be one of the best reasons of all!

But there has been some talk and controversy — do barbecuing or grilling cause cancer?

Here’s the deal.

Barbecuing at higher temperatures can produce a couple cancer causing compounds.  We’re not saying if barbecue on occasion you’re going to get cancer.  But stick with me.

The two compounds that can be created by barbecuing are long words that have acronyms — heterocyclic amines (HA’s) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s.)

The first one, HA, is created when meat is overcooked or charboiled (burned).  And it’s been shown to cause cancer in animals. 

Then there’s the other — PAH — that comes from the smoke off a barbecue, like when fat drips from the meat onto the hot grill and smokes.  The cancer causing compound, PAH, then can be absorbed back into the food.

Cancer experts suggest that occasional grilled food is safe, but not excessive intake.  The other thing to consider is how you cook your foods on the grill, considering options to minimize any potential dangers of barbecuing or grilling.

Here are 5 Tips to Make your Grilling/Barbecuing Safer (but just as tasty!)

  1. Grill at lower temperatures to reduce the likelihood of charring meat.  On a charcoal grill, wait until the flame dies on the charcoals.  On a
  2. Trim the visible fat off meats before cooking to reduce drippings
  3. Try grilling veggies and fruit – using these as the bulk of your meal vs. meats.  Using skewers is a great way to do this.  Less charring, more nutrients is a true win win!
  4. Marinate meats.  Some have suggested marinades with vinegar, in particular, may "protect" the meat in a way and produce less carcinogens. 
  5. Clean your grill grates regularly – these removes any charring between uses.
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