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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Stop Grilled Meat Carcinogens

Grilled food tastes great. But the ugly truth most of us try to forget is that grilling animal proteins—beef, fish, lamb, pork and poultry—as well as pan frying them, produces carcinogens. The more well-done the meat, the more carcinogens. (Here’s the scoop from the National Cancer Institute.)

Consuming dietary carcinogens has been associated with different cancers in humans; a new study has shown that they can cause prostate cancer in rats.

Research has shown that grilled beef is a major source of dietary HCAs when cooked at temperatures of 375°F and above.

Now,, which reports on the latest research, offers a cure…or rather, a marinade. All it takes is marinating the protein with certain antioxidant herbs and spices to prevent HCAs from forming in cooked meats.

J. Scott Smith, Ph.D, a professor of food chemistry at Kansas State University, conducted research for the Food Safety Consortium to discover what effect marinating steaks could have on reducing carcinogenic compounds (HCAs and PAHs*) produced by grilling.


Filets mignon on the grill. Photo courtesy


*Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals that form when muscle meat—including beef, fish, lamb, pork and poultry—is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. Both have been found to cause cancer in animals, and some tests have correlated with cancer in humans.

The findings: Cooking meats with specific herbs and spices decreases or eliminates HCAs on meat, up to 87%. Dr. Smith and his team successfully used spices in the mint family: basil, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. Most of these herbs are rich in three potent antioxidants: carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid.

The herbs and spices were contained in a supermarket brand of powdered marinade containing rosemary and thyme. The cooked meat’s level of reduced HCAs correlated to the amount of antioxidant herbs and spices present in the marinades.

  • The marinade containing rosemary and thyme had the greatest effect on reducing HCAs.
  • The rosemary/thyme marinade that contained pepper, allspice and salt, was found to be almost as effective.
  • Two other effective marinades included oregano, thyme, garlic and onion; and oregano, garlic, basil, onion and parsley, respectively.
    You can make your own marinades using these herbs. And certainly, add the herbs and spices directly to ground beef. Rosemary and thyme are delicious additions to any protein.
    Here’s the original article.


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