When summer hits, there’s nothing better than moving the kitchen outside. Not only does it keep the house cooler, dinner tastes so much more delicious off the grill. Nothing beats that touch of fire.

However, there’s a hidden danger to this summer treat that often gets overlooked. It’s not the burned finger tips . . . Nor the underdone chicken . . .

Unfortunately it’s the very aspect that can make grilling so tasty – the charred and smoky flavor of meat off the BBQ. In addition to cooking up a lip-smacking meal, you've actually cooked up a good dose of cancer-causing compounds.

When you cook meat at high temperatures (broiling, grilling, frying and barbecuing), you trigger an interaction between meat proteins and the heat. Out of this process special compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed. Known carcinogens, HCAs are implicated in an increased risk for colon cancer. [1]

However, while HCAs may make the barbecue more dangerous than ever, there are ways to mitigate this potential health threat.

Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #1: Go Meatless

The most reliable way to protect yourself from this barbecue threat is to take meat out of the equation.

Marinate some tempeh or firm tofu and put it on the grill or try some of the veggie burger and hotdog alternatives at the grocery.

Or, instead of grilling the main protein for the meal, get your taste of fire and smoke in the sides. Try marinating some peppers, onions and squash in a mixture of olive oil, cider vinegar and spices. Then grill them over a medium fire.

These meat-free alternatives can still give you a satisfying smoky flavor without the HCA threat.

But if you don’t want to give up the meat, there are other ways to mitigate the danger of HCA’s . . .

Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #2: Skip The Chicken

While any form of meat has the potential to create HCA’s, fish and beef seem to produce much less than chicken.

In one Brazilian study, salmon pan fried without the skin on produced close to a third of the amount of HCAs found in pan fried chicken without skin.[2] Pan fried beef had only slightly more HCAs than the fish.

In a review of studies posted on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website, grilled chicken breast without the skin produced more than 100 times the amount of HCAs found in a well-done hamburger, close to 70 times the amount of HCAs as grilled salmon and 17 times the HCA’s of a well-done steak.[3]
Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #3: Marinate

Many of the common ingredients in marinades have been proven to help minimize the number of HCAs formed:

• Both wine and beer work to reduce the formation of HCAs, but beer is more effective than wine. Virgin olive oil has also been shown to help reduce HCA formation.[4
• A marinade combining garlic, onions and lemon juice reduced HCAs by 70% and a turmeric-garlic marinade reduced them by 60%.[5,6]

• Rosemary extracts also help minimize HCAs from developing. Some rosemary extracts have been shown to reduce HCA formation by as much as 90%![7]

Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #4: Add Some Green

One of nature’s best defenses against these kinds of cancer-causing compounds is green . . .

The plant pigment, chlorophyll is a remarkably effective fighter of HCAs and other toxins found in meat. Numerous studies show chlorophyll inhibits the uptake of HCAs in the small and large intestines and the liver. The highest dose of chlorophyll was found so effective that it almost completely blocked HCA uptake![8] Chlorophyll can also reduce the absorption of toxins called “polycyclic hydrocarbons” found in barbecued or smoked meats.[9]

Normally, enzymes in the liver called “cytochrome P450” activate toxic molecules (including HCAs) in such a way that they become sticky. Ideally, these substances are paired with “sticky transporters” and are eliminated from the body. Unfortunately, when these toxins become “sticky” they also have an increased tendency to bind to the intestines — increasing the risk of colon and stomach cancer. Chlorophyll seems to inhibit the P450 enzyme. This action makes HCAs and other dangerous chemicals less likely to bind with cells in the digestive tract.[10]

You can get chlorophyll from any green vegetable. But chlorella has more concentrated chlorophyll than any plant on the planet. You can easily sprinkle some Sun Chlorella granules on your meal or swallow a few tablets alongside it.

Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #5: Enjoy A Traditional Side

In addition to adding some chlorella chlorophyll power, you can also indulge in some traditional BBQ sides. Many other fruits and vegetables reduce HCA’s toxicity inside of you.

Have some fruit salad. In research on 15 different fruits, cherries were the most effective in fighting HCA toxicity, followed by kiwi, plum and blueberry juice. If you want to stick with tradition, watermelon hung in there as moderately suppressive too.[11]

And if you love coleslaw, keep eating it. Cabbage and other vegetables in the cruciferous family like radishes, kale, mustard and broccoli produce special sulfur-based compounds that can neutralize cancer causing toxins in the body. Research on 20 young men showed that eating cruciferous vegetables made a marked difference in HCAs’ cancer-causing effects on the body.[12]

Finally, you’ve got one good reason to swill down a beer, here. Beer – particularly dark stouts - also seems to cut HCAs down to size once they get inside of you. Simply mix some beer with your burger in your stomach to enjoy the effects. [13]

Safe And Delicious BBQ Tip #6: Eat It Rare

Finally, more HCAs are formed the longer you cook meat over high heat.

In one study published in the journal Meat Science, well-done meat had 3.5 times the amount of HCA’s found in medium-rare meat.[14] Simply by flipping meat more frequently, allowing it to stay cooler, you can reduce the formation of HCA’s.

Concern about contamination of undercooked meats has caused more outdoor chefs to play it safe by cooking meat longer. However, if you’d like to go back to rare, chlorophyll-rich chlorella can help you once again.

Chlorella has a strong track record of minimizing E. coli, salmonella and listeria infections.

Keep This BBQ Hazard Away From Your Summer

Food should nourish you – not cause harm. But that doesn’t mean you have to give everything up and eat only broccoli. If you use a little strategy, you can still enjoy your favorites without doing damage internally.

With a little marinating, attentive cooking and by swapping out some meat entries on occasion, you can reduce or even eliminate your HCA exposure . . . without giving up the flavor.

Use these tips and you can continue to grill with confidence.

[1] Research update: Cooked meat and cancer risk, American Institute for Cancer Research Newsletter, 1997 Summer; 56.
[2] Iwasaki, M et al. Heterocyclic amines content of meat and fish cooked by Brazilian methods. J Food Compost Anal. Feb 1, 2010; 23(1): 61–69.
[3] The Five Worst Foods To Grill. Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine website. July 3, 2010. Viewed 6/13/14 at http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/the-five-worst-foods-to-grill
[4] Persson E, Graziani G, Ferracane R, Fogliano V, Skog K. Influence of antioxidants in virgin olive oil on the formation of heterocyclic amines in fried beefburgers. Food Chem Toxicol. 2003;41(11):1587-1597.
[5] Gibis M. Effect of oil marinades with garlic, onion, and lemon juice on the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines in fried beef patties. J Agric Food Chem. 2007;55(25):10240-10247.
[6] Nerurkar PV, Le Marchand L, Cooney RV. Effects of marinating with Asian marinades or western barbecue sauce on PhIP and MeIQx formation in barbecued beef. Nutr Cancer. 1999;34(2):147-152.
[7] Puangsombat K, Smith JS. Inhibition of heterocyclic amine formation in beef patties by ethanolic extracts of rosemary. J Food Sci. 2010;75(2):T40-47.
[8] Guo D et al. Inhibition of 2-amino-3-methylimidazo [4,5-f]quinoline (IQ)- DNA binding in rats given chlorophyllin: dose–response and time –course studies in the liver and colon, Carcinogenesis, 1994; 15(4): pp. 763-66.
[9] It's Not Easy Being Green, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1995.
[10] Yun CH et al. Non-specific inhibition of cytochrome P450 activities by chlorophyllin in human and rat liver microsomes, Carcinogenesis, 1995; 16(6): pp. 1437-1440.
[11] Platt KL et al. Fruits and vegetables protect against the genotoxicity of heterocyclic aromatic amines activated by human xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes expressed in immortal mammalian cells. Mutat Res. 2010 Dec 21;703(2):90-8.
[12] Murray S et al. Effect of cruciferous vegetable consumption on heterocyclic aromatic amine metabolism in man. Carcinogenesis (2001) 22 (9):1413-1420.
[13] Nozawa H et al. Inhibitory effects of beer on heterocyclic amine-induced mutagenesis and PhIP-induced aberrant crypt foci in rat colon. Mutat Res. 2004 Apr 11;559(1-2):177-87.
[14] Puangsombat K et al. Occurrence of heterocyclic amines in cooked meat products.
Meat Sci. 2012 Mar;90(3):739-46. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Author's Bio: 

About Randall E. Merchant, Ph.D.
Dr. Randall E. Merchant and his team of colleagues have conducted several clinical investigations on the the effects of dietary supplementation with chlorella in patients with various chronic illnesses. Dr. Merchant continues to be in the forefront of double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical research on chlorella. He is also an esteemed member of the Sun Chlorella USA advisory board.

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