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Keep Cancer off the BBQ Grill

MD Anderson Experts Offer Tips for Healthier Grilling
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Some outdoor cooks may be reconsidering how they grill hot dogs and steak, based on a new report supporting the link between red and processed meats, and increased colorectal cancer risk. But, experts at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say, small changes to what and how you grill can keep cancer off the menu. “The good news is that you can do something to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer,” sa id Sally Scroggs, health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center . “And making just a few cooking adjustments when grilling can play a part in prevention.” Scroggs recommends these tips for a healthier barbecue : 1. Avoid processed meats. Skip processed meats such as bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni. Cancer-causing substances form when these meats are preserved, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. And eating these meats can damage a person’s DNA, increasing the risk of colorectal cancer. 2. Limit red meat. Eating too much red meat such as pork, lamb and beef (including hamburgers) can raise a person’s cancer risk . Try grilling skinless chicken breasts and fish instead. Do you i nsist on red meat? “Limit yourself to three six-ounce (cooked) servings per week,” Scroggs advised. “One serving is the size of two decks of cards.” 3. Don’t char or burn meat, poultry or fish. Charring, burning or grilling meat, poultry and fish over high temperatu res causes heterocyclic amines to form. These heterocyclic amines can damage a person’s genes, raising the risk for stomach and colorectal cancers. To avoid heterocyclic amines: Stick with fish. Fish contains less fat and cooks faster than meat and poultry. Lightly oil the grill. This keeps charred materials from sticking to your food. Pre-cook food. Cook meat, poultry or fish in the microwave or oven for two to five minutes, then finish them on the grill. Less grill time means less exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. Lower the temperature. For a charcoal grill, spread the coals thinly or prop the grill rack on bricks. This reduces the heat by increasing the distance between your food and the coals. And use barbecue briquettes and hardwood products, such as hickory and maple. They burn at lower temperatures than softwood (pine) chips. Scrub the grill. Cleaning the grill after each use prevents harmful chemicals from building up and transferring to your food. 4. Use a marinade. Marinating meat in vinegar, lemon juice and herbs such as mint, rosemary, tarragon or sage can reduce heterocyclic amines formation by as much as 96 percent. Just 30 minutes can help. 5. Trim the fat. Cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form in the smoke when fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto the heat source. That polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons-filled smoke then coats your food. Curb exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by trimming fat from meat before grilling. Or choose cuts labeled “lean.” 6. Showcase fruits and veggies. No barbecue should be a meat-only affair. Grilling fruits and veggies is a great way to load up on vitamins and nutrients that help your body fight off diseases such as cancer . “For some grilling enthusiasts, these changes might initially be a lot to stomach,” Scroggs said. “But updating how you barbecue may mean you continue to enjoy grilling for many summers to come.” For more healthy grilling information, visit online mdanderson.org/focused .