NSFV (Not Safe for Vegetarians)

Grilled meat. There ain’t much better.

The taste.

The mouth-watering aroma.

It’s as if meat were meant to be grilled.

It’s not all good, though.

As the general rule dictates, the better something tastes the worse it probably is for you. Grilled meat is no exception; several known carcinogens (cancer causing agents) are created from cooking meat at high temperatures, especially grilling. These cancerous compounds include heterocyclic amines (HCAs), benzopyrenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs have also been implicated in several chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and peripheral neuropathy, and they are one of the many harmful by-products of a diet high in refined carbohydrates.

This doesn’t mean you should stop eating meat or stop grilling, that’s just crazy. Instead, you should follow some simple steps to reduce the production of these compounds and minimize their harmful effects:

  • Cook “low and slow.” Meats cooked at lower temperatures for longer periods (roasting, baking, etc.) have the fewest carcinogens.
  • Marinate. Look for marinades – or make your own – that contain oil olive, garlic, lemon juice, or rosemary.
  • Microwave first. Microwaving meat for 2 minutes before grilling can significantly reduce HCA formation 1.
  • Make it medium. Well done meats have the most carcinogens, and rare meats have the most bacteria, so medium is your best bet.
  • Remove any charred parts.
  • Drink green tea. Green tea contains antioxidants that can help reduce the harmful effects of carcinogens.
  • Have some veggies, too.
  • Supplement with antioxidant vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, benfotiamine, and carnosine.
  • Avoid cured and processed meats. The nitrates and nitrites in these products have been linked to colon cancer, even without being cooked.
  • Exercise, eat right, and maintain a healthy body weight.

Don’t let your summer or your Fourth of July celebration get ruined by a few nasty chemicals. By instituting the above recommendations, you can keep yourself, your family, and your partygoers healthy and happy. You can also feel free to enjoy as many sumptuous grilled steaks, burgers, and chicken breasts as you want. There ain’t much better.


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