BBQ like a (healthy) BOSS

Summer is here! Which means tons of sunshine, beach days, bikinis, BBQs, and…..carcinogens?

Confused? If you’re going to a BBQ this summer (which is most of us), here’s what you need to know for this BBQ season.

bbq boss

Carcino what?  Carcinogens are agents that are capable of causing cancer (eek) and form when you’re grilling meat.

Two reactions are happening when you’re grilling a piece of meat (beef, pork, fish or poultry) over high heat.

Meet heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These are chemicals that are formed in meat when you place it over a hot flame (at 350- 375F)

Then there are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds in the smoke that you see when fat and juices from the meat drip onto the fire and flames up.  The smoke transfers these PAHs onto the meat.

I know, I know what is a BBQ without the meat and smoke? Not saying you should stop attending BBQs but limiting your exposure to these chemicals is not a bad idea.


So here’s how you can still enjoy yourself while keeping the HCAs and PAHS to a minimum

  • Get it on a stick. Choose kebabs at the next BBQ. Smaller cuts of meat take less time to cook (the longer the meat is cooked at high temp, the more HCA production) and you can even load up on veggies, which don’t form HCAs when they are grilled.
  • Grill corn, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus and even pineapple (my favorite)! Veggies and fruits do not produce HCAs and you can even get creative with it (grilled watermelon anyone?)
  • Choose leaner cuts. Less fat drippings onto the fire = less PAHs
  • Use a marinade, studies have shown that marinating your meat before grilling can decrease HCA formation by up to 96 percent. Studies show that adding herbs and spices significantly reduces heterocyclic amines, especially rosemary. Others you can add are garlic, onion, lemon juice, oregano, and thyme. 
  • Bring on the booze. Beer and wine are not only for drinking but studies have shown that marinating meat with beer or wine resulted in decreased levels of HAs.
  • Line the grill with aluminum foil and punch holes to prevent drippings to fall into the flame (PAHs form like this!)


What are some of your favorite foods to grill? What is the best thing you’ve ever had at a BBQ (you’re allowed to say the guacamole) ? Have any BBQ recipes to share?

Happy and healthy grilling,



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