Fire up the Grill

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

With warmer temperatures just around the corner, many of us will be opting to beat the heat
and keep the kitchen cool by grilling outdoors.
Yet while barbeques and summer go hand in hand, it’s worth taking a moment to polish those
grill skills before donning that apron and “firing up the Barbie.” When it comes to grilling, there
is a correct way and an incorrect way to do it.
Research has shown that meats cooked at high, dry heat (like barbecuing, pan-frying and
broiling as opposed to stewing, roasting or baking at lower temperatures) form heterocyclic
amine (HCA). Researchers say HCAs are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carginogen” and
eating them may increase your risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal, stomach, lung,
pancreas, breast and prostate cancer.
HCAs aren’t found in the charred bits on the outside of your food, but develop inside the meat.
The charred parts you see on the outside – burned by flames from your grill – contain polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another carcinogen that should be avoided. (Always discard or
scrape off charred parts.)
So, does all this bad news mean you need to forego the grill this summer?
Not at all.
By making a few small changes to your strategy, you can enjoy grilled meals all summer long.
Here are a few simple ways to reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHs, and lessen their impact
on your health:
Reach for lower fat options – Flare-ups happen when fat drips onto the heat source and
catches fire. This causes carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form and
accumulate on your food. To avoid this, select lean cuts of meat, trim excess fat and remove
poultry skin. Also, resist the urge to press down on the meat as you grill. Pressing down causes
the fat to drip onto the open flame, causing higher temperatures and additional smoke –
exactly what you DON’T want to do.
Cook “low and slow” – Turn down the heat. It may take longer, but low heat is always the best
way to cook animal foods – no matter the method – as it reduces the formation of HCAs and
PAHs. Ideally, you should aim to keep the grill at 300 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Avoid well-done meat – The more well done, the more HCAs the meat is likely to contain. In
fact, one major study found well-done meat to contain up to 3.5 times the levels of HCAs as
meats cooked to medium-rare.
Flip frequently – Flipping frequently helps avoid charring and reduces HCA production.

Grill smaller pieces – Smaller pieces take less time to cook, ideally giving HCAs less time to
Marinate – Not only does marinating infuse your meat with flavor, it has also been shown to
inhibit the formation HCAs. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research,
marinating can reduce HCA formation by as much as 92 to 99 percent.
Try incorporating one of the following marinades into your summer meal plans:
Antioxidant Marinade
This basic marinade recipe is suitable for all types of meat and fish, and easy to switch up by
incorporating different vinegars, spices, and seasonings such as miso, paprika, and chili peppers.
1⁄2 cup avocado oil
4 Tbsp vinegar
4 Tbsp lemon juice
3 medium garlic cloves
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp Himalayan sea salt
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and coat meat or fish from all sides. Marinate for 10 to 30
minutes (or longer to intensify flavors), but 10 minutes is enough to protect from HCAs.
Easy Steak Marinade
1/3 cup gluten-free soy sauce
¼ cup sesame oil
1 Tbsp. honey (or brown sugar)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder (or 2 cloves fresh garlic)
Combine ingredients in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Add steaks, seal bag and refrigerate. For less
tender cuts of beef, marinate for at least 6 hours but no more than 24 hours. Tender cuts of
beef, like tenderloin, only need to marinated for 15 minutes to 1 hour for flavor.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a
variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and
lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. In
addition, the practice is committed to being a valuable source of information so that people can
learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent future illness. Pathways to Healing is located at
1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-

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