Getting the Best Out of Grilling Season

Kebabs on grillGrilling is an excellent way to cook foods. But it takes a little finessing to keep grilled foods healthy foods to eat.

Cooking meats and fish over a high heat or overcooking them can cause a reaction with the protein in these foods. That reaction triggers the formation of substances called heterocyclic amines or HCAs. HCAs damage cells in the body, which may increase your risk for certain types of cancer. Smoky grilling can deposit another harmful substance called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs on grilled food. PAHs also damage healthy cells in the body, upping cancer risk.

The good news is you can significantly reduce the formation of both. Here's how:

  • Marinate meat, fish or poultry before grilling. It forms a barrier against HCA and PAH formation. Blot excess marinade from meat before placing it on the grill to minimize flare-ups that produce smoke.
  • Use herbs in your marinade or as ingredients in other dishes. Rosemary, garlic and sage may block the formation of the bad guys.
  • Cool the heat. Avoid direct exposure of food to flames. Allow coals to cool a bit before cooking; move the grill rack up or place a barrier between your food and the grill, such as cooking it in a foil pan.
  • Cook smaller pieces of meat, fish and poultry. That means less time over the heat.
  • Serve grilled foods with cancer-fighting accompaniments. The phytonutients in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and even tea (as a drink or ingredient in a marinade) can stall or stop the formation of HCAs and PAHs.

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