Are you the one who likes the charred outside of chicken cooked on the grill or the hotdog with the black grill marks? Well, you might want to think twice before eating anything that is charred or has burned areas on it. Amino acids in meats when exposed to high heat chemically change and form something called heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) which are carcinogenic. HCA’s are not in uncooked meat. There have been something like 17 different HCA’s found to date. The more done you eat your meat the higher amounts of HCA’s form. Research shows that those who eat their meat medium well or well done have 3x the risk of stomach cancer in one study. HCA’s are linked to colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancer. HCA’s triple in well done, charred, fried and barbequed meat. The drippings from meat also have high amounts of HCA’s but most of us are not eating too much gravy (I hope not!) so the giblet gravy on Thanksgiving and Christmas probably won’t do you much harm.
Cooking anything at high heat seems to produce some toxic chemicals. Acrylamides which are found naturally in a variety of cooked foods are linked to cancer. Once again, the higher the heat the more of these compounds are formed. Acrylamides form in cooked carbohydrate rich foods like bread, pasta and potatoes. Much to my dismay it seems as if potato chips have the highest amount. Research from a Dutch study showed that women who ate higher amounts of acrylamides had double the risk of ovarian or womb cancer. So you might want to throw out that piece of toast that got slightly burned since scraping off the burned part does not really help or think about not eating those potatoes that are fried golden brown.
Marinating meat in red wine seems to help cut down on the formation and also microwaving meat for as little as 2 minutes before you grill it can cut down on them significantly. There are 3 things that can help counteract these compounds. The first is tea polyphenols. Polyphenols are anti-oxidants that help fight off disease basically by neutralizing something called free radicals* that form in the body. Free radicals can cause damage to cells. So drinking tea (green tea is best) and eating foods rich in anti-oxidants like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, broccoli and legumes can help fight the effects of HCA’s and acrylamides. Also resveratrol which is an anti-oxidant found in red wine is good so taking a resveratrol supplement will benefit you without getting the alcohol. Diallyl trisulfide which is a compound found in garlic also helps to neutralize the toxic effects of HCA’s and acrylamides.
Take a look at my healthy chocolate it is chock full of anti-oxidants: www.mxi.myvoffice.com/kimberlycamacho . Also, the powdered superfoods that I get from www.superorganicfoods.com are full of antioxidants and are easily mixed into a protein shake. I am currently taking the bilberry, aronia and acai powders. I throw them in my smoothie in the morning. See my smoothie recipe. It is a free-radical fighting power drink!
*Free radicals are basically unstable atoms in the body (everything in this universe is composed of atoms. An atom is basically the smallest unit of something). Some are byproducts of normal metabolism and some are from environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, pesticides, herbicides and cigarette smoke. Free radicals cause damage to cells and free radical damage accumulates with age. Atoms have smaller particles that revolve around them called electrons. Free radicals are short an electron which makes them very unstable and able to cause damage. Anti-oxidants give up one of their electrons to the free radical therefore neutralizing its bad effects. Even though the anti-oxidant gives up an electron and is therefore short an electron, it is still stable in either form so it does not become a free radical itself.