The weather is getting warmer, and the smell of people grilling is starting to fill the evening air.
And while that cooking method does produce a delicious, smoky flavor for the meat, it’s also potentially increasing your risk of certain kinds of cancer.
On the heels of its April report with the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that looked at factors that have a relationship to stomach cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has come out with guidelines about grilling.
In that report, they found in particular that three factors were linked with a higher-than-average risk of developing stomach cancer: a high body fat percentage, a high alcohol intake, and a high intake of processed meats. That means that while the average risk for stomach cancer for most people remains fairly low, it may be somewhat higher in people who can check off all of these factors.
And while the evidence is still limited, some research suggests that grilled or barbecued meats may be especially unhealthy. One reason?
Cooking meat at high temperatures, which is what you do when you grill something, can lead to the formation of substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, these substances may be carcinogenic; several studies have documented this link.
“Smoking or charring meat also contributes to the formation of PAHs,” AICR’s head of nutrition Alice Bender said in a release.
That’s not to say though that you have to ditch grilling entirely, just that there are some steps you can take to avoid having your meat on high temperatures for such a long time.
Instead, the AICR suggests:
Marinading your meat, which has been linked to less HCA formation during the cooking process.
Pre-cooking in the oven or stovetop first before exposing it to flames of the grill.
Going lean to avoid charring and flare-ups that occur as the fire burns up fat.
Mixing in veggies with smaller cuts of meat for a shorter cooking time.
Sticking to grilling fruits and vegetables (those don’t produce HCAs).