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How to make grilling healthier and safer

You love corn on the cob or shrimp kebabs on the grill, but you've also heard that grilling can cause cancer. So what's the deal?
Photo: Getty Images/
Photo: Getty Images/

By Sarah Klein for


So you’re planning a Memorial Day barbecue and you want to at least nod to your health. You love a juicy burger or corn on the cob or shrimp kebabs on the grill, but you’ve also heard that grilling can cause cancer. So what’s the deal?

What You Should Know
Don’t put away the charcoal just yet. “There’s not enough evidence to say, ‘Don’t ever grill,'” says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, the director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The cause for concern is two different compounds that can form while cooking meat on a grill, both known carcinogens.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form in protein-rich foods when cooked at a very high heat — like that of your backyard barbecue, says Doyle. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when fat drips and burns on the grill, creating smoke. “As the smoke circulates around your meat, those compounds can get deposited on whatever you’re grilling and you consume it,” she says.

While the majority of the research on the impact of these compounds has been conducted in animals, we shouldn’t disregard the implications for people, experts say.

Read more to find out just how safe grilling is…

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