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Put More Veggies on Your Grill

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Summer is the time when everyone fires up the grill and enjoys getting together on the patio or at the park. But dietitians from The Cancer Project are urging people to stop putting certain food items on the grill as they produce cancer-causing compounds that could effect your health.

The dietitians determined that many commonly grilled foods contain alarmingly high levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The federal government added HCAs to its list of known carcinogens in 2005 thanks to studies that showed exposure to them are associated with increased risk of breast, colon and other cancers.

“These carcinogenic chemicals can significantly raise cancer risk,” Cancer Project dietitian Joseph Gonzales said. “Imagine the harm caused by grilled foods like chicken and steak, which can contain hefty doses of these cancer-causing compounds in a single serving.”

Grilled chicken contains the highest amount of the carcinogen—putting it at the top of the group’s list of the five worst foods to grill. The other foods include steak, hamburgers, pork and salmon.

This information coincides with a new report from the World Cancer Research Fund that supports the link that consuming red and processed meats increases risk for colorectal cancer.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center offers small changes to your grilling routine to avoid carcinogens in your food.

1. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage and hot dogs.

2. Limit red meat.

3. Don’t char or burn meat, poultry or fish and scrub the grill to prevent chemicals from building up and transferring to your food.

4. Showcase fruits and veggies.

“For some grilling enthusiasts, these changes might initially be a lot to stomach,” said Sally Scroggs, health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center on their website. “But updating how you barbecue may mean you continue to enjoy grilling for many summers to come.”

You can make your own vegetable kabobs with an array of fresh veggies from your local farmers’ market, put veggie burgers on the barbecue, and even consider hearty fruits like pineapples or peaches on the grill for a new dessert option.

Suzanne Boothby is a Brooklyn-based wellness writer, certified health coach and co-founder of New York Family Wellness. Visit www.suzanneboothby.com to learn more.


Reviewed July 22, 2011
by Michele Blackberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

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