(Health Secrets) The arrival of Memorial Day means high grilling season is underway. Unfortunately, grilling meat and cooking meat at high temperatures results in the formation of chemical compounds shown to increase the risk of cancer. This year if you find the urge to fire up the barbecue irresistible, the addition of two common food items can greatly reduce the formation of such dangerous compounds and make for safe grilling. These items are rosemary and tart cherries.
Chief among the cancer causing compounds produced by cooking meats are heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are classified by the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as human carcinogens that increase the risk of cancer.
Researchers at Kansas State University recently studied the effect on HCA production of adding rosemary extract to ground beef before it was grilled. Rosemary extract contain a mixture of rosmarinic acid, carnosol, and carnosic acid. They found that adding the extract reduced HCA levels anywhere from 30 to 100 percent!
In another study recently published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, researchers found that the total amount of HCAs in grilled chicken was reduced seven-fold when 2% rosemary extract was added. The researchers also found that two other dangerous compounds created during cooking were inhibited to non-detectable levels by the addition of rosemary.
Previously, researchers at Michigan State University added the tissue from two varieties of tart cherries (Montmorency and Balaton) to ground beef patties prior to grilling and compared them to a control group of plain grilled ground meat patties. In addition to studying fat content and formation of HCAs, the researchers studied the levels of lipid oxidation during storage, which causes meat to become discolored and to change texture and taste. The result was that the addition of the cherries reduced the formation of HCAs and also retarded lipid oxidation and spoilage.
“The fat contents of the cherry patties were, as expected, lower than that of the control patties, whereas the moisture contents was greater,” said J. Ian Gray, PhD, Professor of Food Science at Michigan State. “Cherry tissue will not only slow down the oxidation deterioration of meat lipids, but will also substantially reduce the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines.”
In addition to cherries and rosemary, which are known for their anti-cancer properties and loaded with antioxidants, other food items have been shown to have the ability to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds during cooking. Honeyis excellent for marinades, providing great taste, browning and glaze formation. It also blocks the production of HCAs and other carcinogens during grilling. Other common food items which reduce cancer causing compounds include: basil, mint, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, garlic and thyme.
Here are some other ways to help reduce risk of cancer from cooked meats:
* Cook at lower temperatures. The higher the temperature the more HCAs and other cancer causing compounds are formed.
* Bake whenever possible. With baking it is easier to control temperature. The highest amount of cancer causing compounds are produced by grilling, barbecuing and pan frying.
* Don’t make gravy from meat drippings. The National Cancer Institute warns that meat drippings – even from meats cooked at lower temperatures – contain substantial amounts of HCAs.
* Limit consumption of meats, especially high-fat meats, reduce the portion sizes, select lean cuts and trim the fat on meats.
* Avoid charring meat and eating charred parts.
* Be sure to eat at least five servings a day off fruits and vegetables.
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