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WHAT To Grill & HOW To Grill It

By PearlPoint Nutrition Services May 22, 2013Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for many, and grilling usually goes hand in hand with summer. It can be helpful for cancer survivors and those wanting to prevent cancer to thoughtfully choose WHAT to grill and HOW to grill it. Read on to learn why.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends people limit their consumption of red meat and processed meat as there is convincing evidence linking red meat and processed meat consumption to an increased risk for colorectal cancer.

It is recommended to limit red meat to 18 ounces or less (cooked) per week. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb.

Below are possible reasons why red meat may increase cancer risk:

  • Red meat contains the heme form of iron, which can damage the lining of the colon.
  • Red meat stimulates the production of N-nitroso compounds in the gastrointestinal tract, which are cancer-causing agents.
  • Cooking meat at high temperatures produces two carcinogens: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Processed meats of any kind and any amount are shown to increase cancer risk. Processed meat has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding other chemical preservatives and includes sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats. It is recommended to avoid processed meats as much as possible since consumption of any amount is linked to increased colorectal cancer risk.

Below are possible reasons why processed meats may increase cancer risk:

  • The processing of meat often involves adding nitrites that may form cancer-causing N-nitroso compounds.
  • Processing may also involve smoking, which can lead to formation of cancer-causing PAHs
  • Processing usually involves adding salt, which can promote development of stomach cancer.
  • Heme iron found in processed red meat may also contribute to increased cancer risk.

How do I decrease red meat and processed meat when grilling?

There are many protein-containing foods available that are great options for grilling. Chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, and veggie burgers are protein-rich alternatives to red meat like hamburgers and processed meat like hot dogs.

Additionally, making room for more veggies on your grill can cut down on the amount of red meat in your meal! Read more about the WHAT and HOW of grilling fruits and veggies here.

How should I grill meat?

Being aware of how you are cooking meat may also be beneficial in reducing your risk of cancer. Cooking meats at a high temperature (such as grilling) can possibly lead to HCA and PAH formation. Marinating meat before grilling or microwaving for two minutes before grilling or smoking can cut down on the formation of carcinogenic compounds.

Bottom line:Keep in mind that if you are making healthy choices most of the time, occasionally eating a hot dog is unlikely to be harmful. Instead of focusing on what foods to exclude, focus more on including cancer-fighting foods in your meals like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.

Blog Author: Katherine T. Fowler, MS, RDN, CEDRD, LDN
PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

Author PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

PearlPoint Nutrition Services is a program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

More posts by PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

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