Grilling Your Way to Cancer? You don’t have to.


Everyone says grilling meat causes cancer. Read what to do about it.

By Jonny Bowden

Barbeque season has arrived, which brings me to my annual message on healthy grilling.

There is a smart way to grill, and a dumb way to grill. The first helps protect your health, the other does exactly the opposite.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss healthy grilling when I appeared on Sacramento’s KCRA News and KXTVNews. During both interviews, I suggested that the single most important thing viewers could to protect themselves against cancerous compounds formed while grilling was to make a marinade:  of herbs, spices and Malaysian palm oil.

The first commandment of grilling: Don’t leave food on the grill until it blackens. Those big flames licking your hamburgers may make the burger look mouth-watering, but what those flames are doing to the burger from a health standpoint is a disaster.

See, the single biggest danger with grilling is high heat. Those big, attention-getting flames interact with the meat to form compounds called heterocyclic amines, which are carcinogenic.

There are safer ways to prepare your meal.

Making a marinade from oils and spices is a great grilling strategy. There’s solid research showing the protective effects of a good marinade as it really cuts down on all the compounds that you don’t want from your barbecue.

As with everything, details matter, and in this case the details are in the choice of oil and choice of herbs and spices. Some oils work better than others for the marinade. Our diet is way too high in pro-inflammatory omega-6s, which are exactly what we’re consuming when we use vegetable oil. You are much better off switching to some better oils, like Malaysian palm oil. This red oil is filled with carotenoids and tocotrienols and I also like using it because of its sustainability. Malaysia protects 50 percent of their forests, which means there, no orangutan habitats are harmed in the making of palm oil.

Adding herbs and spices with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory qualities to a better quality cooking oil can spruce up the marinade too. If you look on any nutrition data site, you’ll see that pound for pound, herbs and spices are more nutritionally rich than practically any other class of food. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but I particularly like using turmeric, oregano… or both.

As Dr. Masley and I wrote in our recent book, Smart Fat, spices are like a medicine cabinet, stocked with terrific, health-giving, natural remedies that we don’t use nearly as much as we should. Use them! Cover whatever you’re grilling with Malaysian palm oil and then just go to town with any or all of the herbs and spices you’ve got on hand. Keep the heat a little bit lower than normal—eat meat, fish and chicken just a tiny bit rarer, and you’ll be doing yourself—and everyone at your BBQ—a tremendous service!