Use These Tips To Ensure A Healthy Grilling Experience

By Dr Ernst
September 13, 2021

Have you been using your grill this summer? Watch out–grilling certain foods can create carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals to be found in your favorite summer foods. All meats (poultry, beef & fish) have proteins, amino acids and even small amounts of naturally occurring sugars. When these nutrients are heated to extreme temperatures (above 500F) your favorite summer food can begin to produce HETERO-CYCLIC AMINES (HCAs)which not only are carcinogenic but are the same things found in many cigarettes/cigars when burning!

Facts on Grilled Foods

  • Well done meats have 3.5x more HCAs than medium-rare or rare meats.
  • Pork has the HIGHEST concentration of HCAs produced when grilling.
  • Grain fed meats produce MORE HCAs than grass fed meats when grilled
  • Most grills can reach temperatures above 500F within a few minutes
  • Flames from drippings can exceed 1,000F, producing HCAs within seconds

The purpose of this newsletter is to detoxify your grilling experience so you can produce healthy grilled cuisines.

Is there anything “SAFE” to grill? Plants and fruits do not have the same combination of amino acids/sugars that meats do, nor dot hey have fat which drips and causes high temperature flames. Have you ventured into the realm of grilled fruits? Apples, pineapple, peaches, pears and even mango turn into delights when grilled. Pineapple is one easiest, simply trim the skin, slice to create a 1/4-1/2” circle and lightly spray with coconut oil before placing on the grill.

What about grilling proteins?

You don’t have to become a vegetarian to reduce your carcinogenic consumption when grilling. Here are some of my favorite tips for healthy grilling:

Pre-Grill Protection: Turmeric and Garlic marinates can reduce the production of HCAs as much as 67% (according to the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii). The important thing with all marinates–NO SUGAR! Unfortunately, most store-bought BBQ sauce (thick and sweet) can actually DOUBLE or TRIPLE the number of HCAs present in grilled foods. It’s suggested to use 1⁄2 cup marinade for every 1lb of meat.

Adding herbs like basil, rosemary, save, marjoram, thyme, ginger and garlic also offer an anti-carcinogenic affect due to their antioxidant nature.

Hamburger Trick: In addition to the spices mentioned above, try adding some dried berries (blueberry or cranberry) to your burger mix. Not only do they taste great but they are also high in antioxidants protecting your burgers from oxidation while cooking.

Clean your grill thoroughly: The “food pieces” from your previous grilling are the first to become 100% charcoal HCAs. Obviously, you don’t want to have those transfer to your newly prepared items. It’s suggested to run your grill as hot as possible after each cooking session to “charcoal” the food items then, when cooled, you can clean the cooking grid to remove as much as possible and spray the grill grates with coconut or avocado oil to prevent rusting.

Mid-Grill Protection: For maximum prevention of HCAs, avoid food contact with an open flame or high temperatures. Stakes should be seared and cooked to nothing beyond medium rare. Anything beyond that and you begin to increase the HCA concentration. Obviously chicken and fish need to be cooked through, so here are some tips to keep the HCA levels as low as possible.

Infrared Grilling: While still using a heat source, infrared grills typically have a large distance between the heat source and infrared plate. Some use glass (best) and others a metallic portion which heats to high temperatures but has no flames. This is ideal again because excessive heat and contact with an open flame is where the HCA production skyrockets.

Natural Gas/Propane Grilling: If you have multiple burners, turn OFF the section immediately under your cooking items, and increase the heat on the remaining burners. If you have a three-burner grill, place your cooking items on the far right/left with that section on low, the immediate adjacent portion on medium and the furthest burner on high. This will avoid nearly all contact with any excessive direct heat, thereby reducing HCAs in the food.

Charcoal Grilling: This is by far the most dangerous, simply because there is nothing between the coals and the cooking grate. The only suggestion here is to place aluminum foil over the coals (not on the grate) once hot, to prevent drippings from creating any flames while cooking.

Post Grill Protection: The easiest thing to do here is if you see “black” or “charred” sections–DO NOT EAT that portion. I know, some of you really like things “crispy” but remember, that is 100% burned meat–pure carbon–pure HCAs. Simply cut it off and toss it for your health’s sake and try again on your next grilling session.

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