NEW GRILLING STUDY: Why Marinating Meat is Good for You
Rub your grub: Marinating red meat could make it healthier, suggests a new report from the MD Anderson Cancer at the University of Texas.
As you brown your beef using high-temperature cooking methods like grilling, the amino acids and sugars in your meat combine to form chemicals called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, explains Clare McKindley, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian at MD Anderson. The concern: Some research suggests that HCAs may contribute to the formation of some cancers. However, the researchers say that using the right marinade on your meat may help prevent HCAs from ever forming in the first place.
If you grill frequently and want to play it safe, one move is to trim off the burned or overcooked sections of the meat before eating, which eliminates some (but not all) HCAs, McKindley says. Or, as the researchers found, you can use an herb-based marinade.
Compounds found in certain herbs—rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint, and sage—help stabilize the sugars in your meat, McKindley says. Soaking your grub for 30 minutes to 1 hour in store-bought marinades that contain those herbs slashes the number of HCAs in your BBQ favorites by up to 88 percent, shows research from Kansas State University. (If you’re worried about the sugars in those marinades, rest assured that they don’t mix with your meat’s amino acids in a way that’s harmful, the KSU study shows.)
Want to make your own? A simple marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and a handful of herbs was just as effective at lowering HCAs, found a study from California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (Follow this recipe to mix up an amazing steak marinade.)
Meanwhile, here’s another grilling tip for better, safer food: go au natural. Sausages and other processed meats are often loaded with preservatives, which are more likely to produce HCAs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—pollutants that may also promote the growth of some cancer, McKindley explains. Opt for meats without preservatives (like Trader Joe’s All Natural Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs; $3.99) to cut down your risk.