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How Safe is That Barbecue?

Meat sizzling on the grill may tempt your taste buds, but all that barbecuing may be cooking up cancer-causing chemicals. Should you substitute sandwiches? Nope, lunch meat can cause cancer. But scientists have found that a touch of rosemary makes hamburgers less carcinogenic. What about the hamburger bun? Whole wheat is better for us and scientists have now developed a "white" whole wheat grain. But you can relax: beer kills cancer cells.

Nutritionist Stephanie Vangsness says that it's possible togrill safely, if you follow a few simple rules. Grilling can convert the proteins in hamburgers, steaks, chicken and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs), chemicals that have been linked to a number of cancers. Also, the smoke generated when fat and juices drip on the hot coals or rocks can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another potential cancer causing chemical. As the smoke rises up past the food it can deposit PAHs on the surface of the meat. "The main cancer causing compound that occurs in grilling comes from the smoke," says Vangsness. "So you want to reduce the exposure to that smoke." Of course, this is also what makes grilled meat taste so good.

Vangsness says that there are a number of ways to grill foods more safely. Choose lean cuts of meat, trim all fat and remove skin from chicken. Partially cook meat and fish in a microwave before grilling, so you can reduce their time on the grill. If you marinate meat before grilling, use marinades that contain vinegar or lemon. Flip burgers often, once every minute. And add rosemary to your meat patties: it's rich in anitoxidants that can stave off cancer. Vangsness reassures us by saying, "If you're grilling and following the propersafety tips, the risk of getting cancer from grilling food isextremely low."

Eating a lot of processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and luncheon meats may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. In a new study, researchers investigated the pancreatic cancer death rate among almost 200,000 US men and women, of several different races. It was found that those who consumed the highest amounts of processed meats are 67% more likely to get pancreatic cancer. Those who consumed the highest amounts of pork and red meat increased their risk by 50%. There was no association between eating poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs.

Previous studies already found that those who heavily consumed red meat and processed meat were 50% more likely to get colorectal cancer compared with those who did not use much processed meats.

You want to give the kids whole wheat hotdog and hamburger buns, but they don't like them. Bread manufacturers have solved your problem: after eight years and millions of dollars, they have created Ultragrain, a non genetically-modified whole grain that looks just like white. It will soon turn up in pasta, cookies and crackers as well. Sara Lee has launched its Soft & Smooth bread, a loaf with Ultragrain that appears white, but is 30% whole grain. Even Wonder Bread is test-marketing a white bread with 100% whole grain, which will be in grocery stores next year.

And for dessert: chocolate. It contains flavanoids that lower blood pressure, but it has to be dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. Nutritionist Jeffrey Blumberg says, "It turns out that chocolate is not only a pleasurable food, but it fits in quite nicely with the other healthy recommendations."

Last but not least: Andy Coghlan writes in New Scientist that cancers caused by cooked meat and fish can be reduced up to 85% by drinking beer instead of water.

To learn more, click here, here, here, here and here.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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