Summer is here. With it come vacations, lush gardens, and barbecues with friends and family. Unfortunately, barbecued food has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. But you can have your barbecue and your health too with if you follow these suggestions adapted from my e-book Cancer-Proof:
1. Keep a watchful eye to avoid barbecue flare-ups and the resulting charring of your food. Charred food is linked with the creation of carcinogens.
2. Cook over lower temperatures. Use low to medium cooking temperatures. When foods like meat are heated over high temperatures or come in contact with flames, compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can form. Both compounds are known carcinogens. Of course you don’t need to pronounce them or spell them to reduce your risk of exposure to these carcinogens. Of course if you’re cooking meat or poultry always be sure that the inside temperature reaches a high enough temperature to kill microbes.
3. If you’re cooking meat or poultry, marinate it in olive oil and lemon juice-based marinades. Research shows that these two items reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by up to 99% while cooking, while adding flavor and helping to keep it moist.
4. Choose naturally low fat foods like vegetables, lean cuts of meat, poultry or fish. Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are primarily formed when fats are heated to high temperatures or fall into the flames and create smoke. Low fat foods reduce the chance of these compounds forming at all.
5. Trim excess fat from meat prior to cooking it (for the same reason as number 4).
6. Add fresh or dried herbs to cut your cancer risk. These herbs include: basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University discovered that using basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or sage in marinades drastically reduces the formation of HCAs. Simply use one or more of these herbs, preferably fresh, in a marinade prior to and during cooking. They reduce cancer risk and add tremendous flavor.
7. Avoid overcooking vegetables. The longer they cook the more certain vitamins like vitamin C and B-complex vitamins break down. New research in Molecular Biology Reports shows that Vitamin C reduces the cancer-causing effects of HCAs.
8. Add more vegetables to the grill. One of the easiest ways to cancer-proof your barbecue is to add more veggies. Making kebabs is a great way to do this. If you’re cooking meat on kebabs, the veggies will keep it moist and add fiber, flavor, and nutrients.
9. Include cruciferous vegetables in every barbecue. New research in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention shows that cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that form cancer-protective compounds known as isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates have been shown to protect against HCAs and PAHs, making them especially great to cancer-proof your barbecue. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
10. Clean your grill prior to every use. Not only is it more appetizing to eat food that’s been cooked on a clean grill, but you’ll reduce the amount of char that you’ll be eating. The charred parts of food can cause free radical formation in your body and since free radicals are linked with premature aging, disease, and tissue damage, it’s best to reduce your exposure as much as possible.
It’s easy to cancer-proof your next barbecue by taking these simple steps. For more ways to stay cancer-free, check out my e-book Cancer-Proof.