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Health Risks Associated with Grilling Food

During my childhood, my grandma would always be ready with her expert advice for me. She spoke of things beyond the understanding of an seven-year old kid but I always remembered them. One day, my mother grilled the chicken wings a little too much. My grandma threw the entire contents of my plate into a garbage bag. I was heartbroken, but she said, I would put my health at a risk if I ate overly grilled food. I pretty much remember her telling me that the black crust could cause cancer. Grilling is a method of cooking that roasts your food without the need of any additional frying agents like animal fats or oil. Direct heat is used to cook the food from both sides on a grill at a temperature ranging between 500 degrees F and 1,000 degrees F. It is mainly used to barbecue meats, fish and poultry or the MPF foods. It is one of the most recommended types of cooking for people who are aiming at weight loss. No added oils to cook makes it a favorite among people who relish low-fat food.

Popular Forms of Grilling
Legend has it, prehistoric man first learned to eat roasted food by eating the flesh of animals killed in a forest fire.

– Broiling is a form of grilling wherein the source of heat is located above the food.
– Char-grilling is essentially grilling that uses coal or charcoal as a medium of heat to cook food.
– Barbecuing is a socializing trend soon catching up among people as a great idea for a friendly get together. Most of us have been to at least one barbecue evening.
– Other forms include grid-ironing, charcoal kettle-grilling, flat top grilling, stove-top pan grilling and grill-braising. However, scientists have now discovered that grilling your food may be putting you at a major health risk.

Health Risks of Grilling Food
According to research, excessive grilling for long durations at a high heating point changes the chemical makeup of food and develops carcinogens, cancer-causing agents. The formation of two compounds, Hetero-cyclic Amines (HAs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) , leads to development of stomach and colon cancer on consumption of foods that they bind to. It interferes with the DNA structure of your body and stimulate the production of cancer-causing cells.

Dangers of Grilling Meat
When you grill food, the only barrier between the source of heat and food are the grills. Over-heating causes animal fat to melt, drip off your food and melt on to the medium of heat, which is often coal. At a temperature of 400°F, too much heat leads to the transformation of amino acids present in muscle tissues in the meat into HAs and PAHs that vaporize due to the heat. These are one of the most catastrophic carcinogens. As the smoke rises and settles on to the food, these chemicals attach to your food. The brown-black spots are over-grilled parts of your food that contain the most amount of HAs and PAHs. But, the formation of HAs is observed in protein based food like meat. These mutagens provoke cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart condition of tissue inflammation and destruction, which is an aging disorder in reality. However, scientists are still investigating to factually confirm this observation in humans.

As a matter of fact, people who have the highest consumption of grilled meats, also have a higher rate of pancreatic disorder, liver, breast and rectal cancer. Even if you are not eating it, but doing the cooking, the chemicals are present in the fumes and easily enter your respiratory system. But I must also add, that it is only harmful when done for days and not just a few hours. Even though beef is a lot richer in fat content as compared to chicken, deep-fried beef contains much lesser HAs and PAHs as compared to grilled chicken.

Grilling it Safe
You do not have to fear grilling because it is still safe to eat grilled food. After all, it is only a variation of roasting, the first cooking method discovered by man. However, there are some safe grilling techniques that you could practice to avoid the health risks associated with grilling.

– Choose lean and healthy meat cuts for your barbecue sessions. Low fat helps ensure reduced dripping of animal fat – on the coal, thereby, minimizing the development of carcinogens.
– Do not grill meat for long periods.
– Reduce portion size of meat.
– Always clean cooking equipment post-grilling immediately to prevent bacteria from breeding on them.
– Do not consume the over-grilled parts of your food even if it is not meat. HAs form on meat products but PAHs can form on all kinds of food during excessive roasting. Even your vegetarian kebabs and skewers contain the risk.
– If you are using a microwave or oven for grilling, make sure you preheat them well, at least 10-15 minutes to reduce cooking time.
– To grill fish, you can wrap it in an aluminum foil and keep it chemical free.
– Supplement your food with antioxidants by marinating meat with lemon or orange juice, vinegar and red wine. Have a fruits and vegetables salad as a side-dish.

Think about all the greenhouse gases and soot particles that grilling produces. It not just affect your health but it mixes up and stays within the atmospheric layer of the environment. The more your barbecue meat stays in contact with flame and smoke, the more will be the carcinogen content on it. You could use a grilling machine that has a filter to block out smoke and prevent it from coming in contact with your food. If it suits you, you could substitute grilling with frying using avocado and safflower oil as they have a high smoke point. Also, it would be great health etiquette to reduce the portion size of those hamburgers. As the saying goes, “What you eat is what you become!”