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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Can Your Grill Cause Cancer?

Ahh…finally the warm weather and we can break out the grills! Grilling is a great way to cook meat without adding fat. But there could be some danger lurking in the way you are grilling.

Are you the type who likes your meat with that charred appearance and taste? While the meat may taste good that way, it may also contain chemicals that are cancer-causing. The amino acids in the meat react to very high temperatures, creating heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Another substance called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can also form when fat drips on the coals, so using lean meats and flipping frequently can help reduce the formation. If you do get some charred edges or spots, try to remove those before eating them.

The photo shown here is an example of what NOT to do...high flames cause charring very quickly!

Tips for safer grilling:
1. Marinate your meat. It may help to cut down on the formation of HCAs
2. Vegetables do not cause HCAs or PAHs to form. Eat your veggies! :-)
3. Choose lean cuts of meat and flip frequently
4. Cut off any charred edges of meats before eating them
5. Clean your grill well with hot soapy water before and after each use
6. Use a food thermometer and cook hamburger to 160 degrees, steak to 145 degrees, and chicken to 170 degrees
7. Precook your meat in the microwave for two minutes so it spends less time on the grill (can reduce HCAs by up to 90%)
8. Cook at lower temperatures so you don’t char the meat
9. Use smaller cuts that cook all the way through in a shorter time than the thick cuts

For more information on grilling safety and cancer, click here.

Photo courtesy of barron
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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