Grill with Care


Summer is by far one of my favorite seasons because it’s often filled with trips to the beach, time spent with friends and family, BBQs and 4th of July parties. It’s also optimal time for grilling. Unfortunately, grilling food can be a potential source of carcinogens exposure. Learn how to celebrate summer safely by following a few of these handy tips:



When meat is cooked at high temperatures, a group of chemicals known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), form on the meat. Some HCAs have been identified as human carcinogens. Another group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), form in the smoke that is produced when fat burns or drips onto hot grill coals. PAHs have also been linked to a whole host of health effects, particularly breast cancer. The longer the meat is cooked at high temperatures (above 300 degrees Fahrenheit), the more HCAs and PAHs form.

That’s why it’s important to choose lean cuts of meat, grill at lower temperatures, avoid “blackened” foods, and trim off any charred or burned parts. You can even precook the meat by roasting or baking it in the oven to limit grilling time.

Processed Meats

In addition to PAHs and HCAs, processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages also have the potential to increase your risk of cancer. In one of my past blog posts, I talked about the chemicals in processed meats such as nitrites, nitrates, and Propyl gallate, all of which are used to preserve meat. However, these chemicals have been linked to endocrine disruption and cancer.

If you can, purchase organic meats. Synthetic nitrates and nitrites aren’t allowed in organic packaged foods and meats. You can also look for labels such as, “no nitrates or nitrites added” and avoid ingredients listed as, “potassium nitrates and nitrites.” Learn more about dangerous food additives in EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.


Seafood is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (and one of my favorite foods to grill), however, some fish contain toxic industrial chemicals such as PCBs, mercury, dioxins, DDT and more.

You can reduce your amount of these contaminants by trimming the fat off of your fish, as well as eating certain types of fish that have been tested to have less of these toxins. According to the Environmental Working Group, the best fish and seafood to eat include wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout, and atlantic mackerel. The worst offenders are shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, marlin, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, and orange roughy. Check out EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood for more information.

When in doubt, try to buy organic, leaner cuts of meats and fish, choose medium instead of well-done grilled foods, avoid certain types of fish, cut or scrape off charred parts of your food, and avoid processed meats with preservatives. Following these tips can help you and your loved ones stay safe while still enjoying all of the festivities that summer has to offer!




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