Cut the carcinogens by following these top five tips for a health-conscious summer barbecue
The sun is out, and with it comes BBQ season. But despite being delicious, high-heat grilling of meat, fish and poultry can cook up dangerous chemicals called carcinogens, which are known to cause cancer.
So if you're keen to enjoy al-fresco dining without worrying about the potential health issues, follow these five top tips for keeping your barbecue free from causing harm to your health, provided by nutritionist Sarah West.
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1. Know your limits‘500g of red or processed meat is considered a healthy weekly allowance – which is equivalent to one steak, one pork chop, and three sausages,’ explains Sarah. ‘If you’re prone to overdoing it on the BBQ, follow up with a few meat-free days to help balance things out.’
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2. Reduce the heat How do you know what is a health risk on the grill? ‘While a bit of light charring is all part of the BBQ experience, incinerated meat isn’t worth the risk,’ says Sarah. ‘The blackened areas on charred and grilled meats and fish are a source of carcinogenic chemicals, which can directly damage DNA (our genetic material) and lead to the development of cancer.’
Her advice? ‘Try lowering the temperature or elevating the grill to avoid burning your food.’
3. Reduce fat content ‘Carcinogens can also form in the smoke caused by dropped meat fat and juices,’ Sarah explains. ‘Trimming excess skin and fat will ensure there are less harmful smoke flare-ups. Wrapping meat in foil also helps to protect it.’
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4. Clean the grill Keeping the grill clean is essential to prevent any nasties coming into contact with your food. Sarah’s advice? ‘By removing charred bits of food from your BBQ, you will help prevent chemicals from building up and transferring onto your food,’ she advises. Secondly, ‘lightly oiling your grill before cooking will also help prevent burning, charring and sticking.’
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5. Eat your greens Sarah says: ‘Unlike meat, vegetables don’t create carcinogens when they char. Pairing grilled meats with cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower and kale) will also add an additional cancer-fighting punch to your meal.’ These veg ‘contain sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to target and block a defective gene associated with cancer.’
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