Ahhhh…summer! The sounds of food sizzling on the hot grill and the smell of barbecue fill the air. This time of the year is well known for outdoor events accompanied by a self-made grill master standing behind a fiery barbecue.
Grilling has received a bad reputation because of the possible link to an increased risk of colon cancer. But the joys and pleasure of consuming grilled food do not need to cause undue anxiety. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says it is most important to choose the right food to grill and it’s not necessary to avoid grilling altogether. Check out these helpful tips!
A Few Grilling Tips
- AICR recommends avoiding processed meats like hot dogs, sausage and bratwurst because there is convincing evidence that these choices can increase the risk of colon cancer. For other meats, keep the portion size of your grilled red meat (beef, pork and lamb), poultry and seafood smaller than the portion size of your plant-based foods. A standard portion of meat is the size of an average human palm. By decreasing the portion size of grilled meat, you will have a higher consumption of foods high in fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals – which are all important for colon health. Overall, AICR recommends limiting red meat consumption to less than 18 ounces per week.
- Grill meats at a lower temperature and turn them often. A compound in the protein of meat reacts under the high cooking temperature and creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can contribute to the development of cancer by altering the DNA in our cells. By turning down the temperature of the grill you can significantly reduce the development of HCAs. Choosing to grill plant-based foods like vegetables or fruits in place of meats will help you completely avoid any production of HCAs.
- Use a marinade on all of your meats for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. It is unknown exactly how marinades help to reduce the formation of HCAs, but by using a marinade you can reduce the production of HCAs by up to 96%. Try a few of these great marinade ideas.
- Try something new! Get creative with different types of plant-based foods. Simply wash and trim asparagus or slice some zucchini, summer squash, onion and eggplant and grill them. Keep a grill basket handy and toss in a mixture of bite-sized vegetable pieces for a quick entrée. Most firm-fleshed fruits like peaches, nectarines, bananas and pineapple hold up well on a grill and offer a quick and satisfying dessert.
Try These Tasty Recipes
Angela Hummel is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition at Savor Health. She is passionate about helping people meet the many challenges of managing health throughout cancer treatment. Angela studied nutrition at Central Michigan University, where she completed her bachelor’s degree, dietetic internship and master’s degree. She has worked in the inpatient, outpatient and community oncology settings for many years. Currently, she is part of the clinical team at Meals to Heal where she counsels people on oncology nutrition and contributes to clinical website and other Meals to Heal content.
Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have questions or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help!