While most people can’t resist that grilled steak, burger, or chicken, there is a downside that can affect your health and increase your risk of getting cancer. The love affair with cooking meat is ingrained in our society but more and more research is showing the hazards of cooking meat at high temperatures and cooking it too long.
The culprits in cooked meats that are getting the attention of scientists are heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These two chemical compounds are just two of the byproducts of cooking meats, but these are two of of most lethal byproducts. Even if you are eating a balanced, healthy diet and have a good fitness program, any cooked meats included in your diet can have these two compounds that could increase your risk of getting some types of cancer.
These two compounds are found at much higher levels of meats that are cooked at high temperatures, especially grilling, where the meats are exposed to much higher temperatures than if baked, steamed or poached at low temperatures.
One of the more popular diets right now is the Paleo diet and meats are a major part of the diet. The consumption of a higher percentage of meats will increase your exposure to HCAs and PAHs. There are currently over 15 HCAs that are known to be carcinogenic.
The problem with the PAHs and HCAs is that they cause mutations in your DNA and this opens the door to higher risks of getting some form of cancer. Scientists have known this for about 50 years but most of the public is not aware of the problem because it is not in the news and most large meat companies do their best to keep any negative reports out of the news.
So what options do you have to reduce your risk of consuming too many of these lethal compounds? The best way to avoid these is to not eat cooked meats, but this is too drastic for most people. You could eat raw meat, but then you are going to have to worry about deadly microbes and bacteria. Probably not the best option.
To reduce your exposure to the HCAs and PAHs, you can cook your meats at lower temperatures. You could still grill your favorite meat, but avoid having the meat too close to the hot coals so there won’t be so much fat dripping on the coals and then creating smoke that gets on your meat. Keep the meat farther away from the coals and even put the coals on the side so they are not directly under the meat.
Another way to cut your risks is to cut off any portions of meat that are burnt or charred. These parts of the meat have the highest concentrations of PAHs and HCAs.
Other types of meat that should be eaten less often are processed meats, including hot dogs, bacon, lunch meats, sausage, and salami. These meats have another cancer-causing chemical called nitrates, mainly sodium nitrate. The nitrates are used to preserve the meat, but they are also another well-known cancer-causing chemical.
So if you want to enjoy your burgers and steaks, try and avoid cooking at high temperatures and cooking the meat too long.