Could You Be Grilling With Cigarette Smoke?


If you’re looking to get your grill on this summer, you should definitely make healthy grilling your top priority. Luckily, there are some easy ways to both optimize your health and the flavor of your grilled grub!

The Problem

When meat is grilled at extremely high temperatures, it will naturally produce heterocyclic amines (aka HCAs, which are also in cigarette smoke) due to a reaction between two compounds called creatine (an amino acid) and sugar, as both are found in all meat.

And it’s not only the char that you should be looking out for- research has found that well-done meat has three-and-a-half times more HCA than medium-rare meat.

While some meats are better than others, fried bacon showed the greatest amount of HCA, while pork, beef, and chicken rounded out the first four.

Healthy Substitutions

Because grilled veggies do not have creatine, they don’t form HCAs, either. Because of that, you can grill ‘em up on the barbie and feel good about it. It’s also important to note that a secondary carcinogen can rise from fat drippings that fall onto the coals and cause smoke. This smoke then sticks to your grilled foods, allowing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another powerful carcinogen, to soak into your meat. Grilled vegetables don’t produce this reaction.

The Tasty Solution

The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii realized that grilling with a teriyaki marinade lowered HCAs by a massive 67 percent. Similarly, a turmeric-garlic sauce lowered them by a sizeable 50 percent, as the key to reducing HCAs in meat looks to be simply using a thin, vinegar-based sauce.

On the other side of the spectrum, when researchers used thick, concentrated barbecue sauces (typically with added sugars), they tripled the amount of HCAs present!

Also, some herbs and spices can help protect your meat. The Hawaiian research group realized HCA reduction was actualized when they used marinades that held mint variations like basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Most of these minty herbs are rich in carnosic acid, carnosol, and rosmarinic acid, which all serve as powerful antioxidants.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Jakob Montrasio

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