Simple changes to your backyard grilling routine could help reduce your colon cancer risk, an expert says.
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"Research now shows that diets high in red and processed meat increase risk for colon cancer," Alice Bender, a registered dietitian at the American Institute for Cancer Research, said in an institute news release. "And grilling meat -- red or white -- forms potent cancer-causing substances. But by keeping five simple steps in mind, it's possible to make this summer's backyard grilling both healthier and more flavorful."
The type of meat you put on the grill is as important as how you grill it. Diets high in beef, pork and lamb are linked to increased risk for colon cancer, as are processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages. Instead of sticking with steak, burgers and franks, use spices, herbs, hot peppers and sauces to get creative with fish and chicken, Bender suggested.
Be sure to marinate before you grill. Research has shown that marinating meat, poultry and fish for at least 30 minutes before putting it on the grill can reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are formed when cooking with high heat. Use a mixture of vinegar, herbs, spices and lemon juice or wine.
Other potentially cancer-causing substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are deposited onto meat by smoke during grilling. Reduce the amount of time that meat spends on the grill by first partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove. Be sure to put the partially cooked meat on the preheated grill immediately in order to keep it safe from microbes that can cause illness, Bender said.
Cook meat over a low flame to reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Reduce flare-ups by keeping fat and juices out of the fire. Cut visible fat off the meat, move coals to the side of the grill and cook your meat in the center of the grill. Cut off any charred portions of meat before serving.
Your menus should include vegetables and fruits, which contain anti-cancer compounds. Put thick slices of onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers or tomatoes on the grill or in a grill basket. Corn on the cob is another good choice for grilling, which brings out the sweetness in vegetables, Bender said.