Is it OK to eat charbroiled meats?

Now that barbecue season is here, is it OK to eat charbroiled meats?

Michael Roizen, M.D.

Michael Roizen, M.D.

As chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, Michael F. Roizen, MD, is on a mission to inform... Read more

America is a nation that loves to barbecue. Here’s the bad news and the good news. Charred beef, chicken, pork and fish contain two things, which tend to do damage to your body: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form when the amino acids in the meat’s protein and the creatine (in muscle) react to the high cooking temperatures. PAHs form in grill smoke that’s created from meat drippings and then sticks to the meat’s surface. Exposure to HCAs and PAHs can increase your risk for a number of cancers, including stomach, esophagus, bladder, breast and prostate. There’s even some data to suggest that HCAs increase aging of your arteries.

The good news: Marinating foods for at least five minutes prior to cooking appears to considerably lower the formation of HCAs. The amazing thing is it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of marinade you use, as long as it’s not water or sugar-based. Olive oil and vinegar are good choices. Meanwhile, the amount of PAHs can be reduced by grilling foods at a lower temp to avoid flare-ups. (Use a thermometer to make sure meat is thoroughly cooked. And yes, wash the thermometer after each use to avoid “reinfecting” the meat.)