Diet and Nutrition
'Tis the Season for Grilling
Ways To Reduce Cancer Risk
A landmark report by The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), written by a panel of scientists, concluded that 30-40% of all cancers could be prevented by changing our diet and exercise habits. The recommendations of the AICR report are summarized in the following Diet and Health Guidelines for Cancer Prevention:
Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods.
- Add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, & legumes to your dinner plate, making meat a side dish rather than the main attraction.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables...at least 5 servings a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active.
- Include at least 60 minutes of moderate activity (such as brisk walking) in your day.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.
- Moderation means < 1 drink per day for women and < 2 drinks per day for men.
- Select foods low in fat and salt.
- Limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.
- Prepare and store foods safely.
Cooking meat, fish, and poultry at high temperatures, especially over an open flame, causes carcinogenic substances called (heterocyclic amines (HCA) to form on the meat's surface. Other cancer-promoting substances called (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)(PAH) form when fat drips into the fire, causing smoke and flames to reach the food.
More on Grilling:
So do we have to sell the grill and never enjoy another Saturday evening of grilling with friends and family? NO! But you can grill more safely by following these tips from the AICR:
- Skip the meat. Grilled meat, poultry, and fish introduce the greatest risk of forming HCAs. Try grilling vegetable kabobs, fruits, herbed potato skewers, or veggie burgers for a change of pace.
- Cut the fat. When grilling meats, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away any visible fat. This will lessen the amount of PAHs formed from flare-ups caused by dripping fat.
- Marinate. Marinating meats for as little as 10 minutes can prevent the formation of HCAs by as much as 90 percent. Marinades usually consist of an acidic liquid (such as citrus fruit juice, wine, or vinegar), oil, herbs, and spices.
- Pre-cook meats. The longer meat is cooked over an open flame, the higher is the cancer risk. Cook your meat, poultry, and fish in the microwave or oven until almost done, and then finish cooking on the grill. You will still be able to enjoy the grilled flavor while reducing your risk of cancer.
- Avoid flare-ups. In addition to grilling lean cuts of meat, keep juices from dripping into the fire by using aluminum foil and by flipping meats with a spatula rather than a fork. Also, never reapply starter fluid while cooking meats and douse any flare-ups immediately with water.
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Last Reviewed: Jan 26, 2011
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati