It’s fourth of July weekend and that means fireworks and grilling.  Both are fun things to do and have become a common way to celebrate the anniversary of our country’s birth.  Unfortunately, grilling meat isn’t as wonderful as it usually tastes.

If you cook animal flesh over a hot open flame, it unleashes a series of chemical reactions that results in the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a cancer-causing substance.  Those HCAs are also one of the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.

Don’t go throwing away your spatula and “Kiss the Cook” apron!  There are some ways to limit the exposure of HCAs and still enjoy the festivities.  The way you prepare the meat can make a big difference in the level of HCAs.  For instance, adding antioxidants like berries, Vitamin E, and some alcoholic beverages can neutralize the HCAs and make your burger a little healthier.

Here are a few other suggestions…compliments of Naturopath, Jacob Schor:

  1. Go Meatless – grilling vegetables doesn’t produce HCAs.  If you add more vegetables like grilled corn, asparagus, mushrooms, etc. you’ll probably eat less meat and therefore consume less HCAs.
  2. Turn down the heat – The hotter the grill, the more HCAs produced.  Lower the temperature and cook longer.  Lowering temperature by 100 degrees cuts HCA formation by 2/3rds.
  3. Turn the meat often – When meat goes unflipped, the side closest to the flame gets significantly hotter and therefore producing more HCAs.  Less heat = less HCAs.
  4. Try new ingredients – Add cherries, prunes, apples, pineapple, garlic, vitamin E, and rosemary can reduce HCAs and delight your taste buds.
  5. Marinade all meat – Want to cut HCA formation by 60%?  Marinate in teriyaki or turmeric-garlic sauce overnight.  Don’t use traditional marinades of sugar and tomato paste, they can triple HCA formation.  A red wine marinade reduces HCA formation by 88% in chicken breasts.
  6. Go skinless – Even though the skin might taste the best, removing poultry skin reduces the recurrence of prostate cancer by half!
  7. Choose the right side dishes – Pick dishes loaded with antioxidants like berries, grapes, kiwi, watermelon, spinach, red wine, and teas.
  8. Eat cruciferous vegetables – Cruciferous?  It’s the vegetables that look like little trees…broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.  They produce sulforaphane, a chemical that can neutralize HCAs carcinogenic properties.

Eat right and enjoy the holiday!