Grilling Healthier: Tips to Reduce Cancer Risk

Research has suggested a link between grilled foods and cancer, but you can reduce that risk with these simple tips for healthier grilling.

mother and son grilling food for barbecue with familyMaskot/Getty Images

Summer wouldn’t be summer without firing up the grill and inviting friends and family over for a cookout. And yet, grilling outdoors isn’t always good for you, thanks to certain grill-worthy foods and practices. Take red meat, for example. That typical barbecue fare is linked to an increased risk of colorectal and other cancers. Make things worse? The accidental exposure to potential carcinogens inherent in the grilling process.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the grill. “A little preparation, creativity, and healthy food choices can really make a big difference to making grilling healthier,” says Sheena Patel Swanner RDN, LD, director of nutrition programs at the American Institute for Cancer Research. Read on for practical tips for grilling. (Here are 10 foods that try to avoid cancer papers.)

close-up of burgers on the grillTetra Images/Getty Images

Stay away from burnt steering wheel

If well-cooked burgers or hot dogs are your thing, consider this: Consuming well-cooked or charred meats regularly can increase your risk of developing cancer. Specifically, they produce HCAs (short for heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), according to the National Cancer Institute. HCAs form in the meat, while PAHs are found in the smoke and can stick to the surface of the meat, Swanner says. “Laboratory studies have shown that [both of these compounds] can alter our DNA and that in turn can increase the risk of cancer.” (Here are 11 things that can happen if you eat too much meat.)

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