This subject really pains me to write about. I’ve loved grilling for almost all of my life, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than a summer cookout with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s been well known for a while that eating grilled, fried, or broiled meats can significantly increase your risk for cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research has been recommending that we stop grilling meats since 2008. And now the American College of Nutrition finally addressed this in their new guidelines for preventing cancer, recommending that we avoid eating things such as grilled chicken or steak, not to mentioned processed meats like sausage.
Why Eating Grilled Meat Is Bad for You
Cooking and charring animal products releases cancer-causing carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs.1 On top of that, grilled meats contain toxins called advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) that may lead to ailments such as inflammation, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.2
Faced with these facts, what are we to do? Are we supposed to just stop having daytime cookouts, throw away our grills, and stop enjoying ourselves? Absolutely not! There are plenty of other foods that work incredibly well on the grill, and here are a few of them.
The best option to replace that charred burger, Portobello mushrooms are not only packed with protein, they’ve actually been shown to be powerful cancer fighters. Drizzle a bit of tamari and Worcestershire sauce on them and throw them right on the grill and you’ve got yourself a meaty and delicious burger replacement.
Another easy one, just slice eggplant into strips, spray your grill with a little cooking spray, and throw the slices right on there. Grilled eggplant gets crispy on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside, and make great additions to sandwiches or as a stand-alone side.
Grilled pineapple is an insanely sweet summer treat. Slice into wedges or rings and grill about two or three minutes per side and you’ve got yourself another great burger topping. Pineapples are loaded with antioxidants and may have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
Before you get all crazy and start railing against soy, note that the American College of Nutrition also recommended the consumption of whole soy products (as opposed to isolated soy products found in processed foods) to prevent cancer in their latest guidelines as well. While soy isn’t for everyone, there’s no better soy-based option than tempeh. Marinate it in whatever you’d typically season your steak with and put it right on the grill as well. It’s a delicious and filling option that might even help you forget about those charred steaks you won’t be cooking.
The bottom line is that there are tons of foods to grill that are not only healthy, but delicious as well. So although grilling meat might not be the safest option for your long-term health, your summer cookouts don’t have to be a thing of the past.
1. R. Sinha, et al, “High concentration of the carcinogens 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo-[4,5] pyridine (PhIP) occur in chicken but are dependent on the cooking method.” Cancer Research, 1995 Oct 15;55(20):4516-9.
2. J. Uribarri, et al, “Circulating glycotoxins and dietary advanced glycation endproducts: two links to inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and aging.” Journals of Gerontology: Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2007 Apr;62(4):427-33.
Photos 1-3 courtesy of Shutterstock.