Healthy Grilling: Cut the fat and the cancer risks
Summer grilling--for breakfast, lunch and dinner--is a flavorful and fun way to cook. It can also be a healthy way to eat when you choose foods that are low in fat and high in nutrients.
While eating grilled foods increases your cancer risk, there are simple things you can do to reduce the risks that come from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and Heterocyclic Amines (HCA). These form when foods, particularly meat fats, are in contact with high heat and flame and/or the smoke created from burning fat. Use low fat cuts of beef like flank steak, filet mignon, top loin and top round to reduce PAHs and HCAs. For pork or lamb the loin cuts are lean. Chicken breast, halibut, scallops and shrimp are good options too. Salmon, though higher in fat, is okay because the fats are heart healthy. Just watch portion size with everything.
When combined with grilled vegetables and low fat side dishes, grilled meats are a welcome addition to a healthy diet. Follow these simple tips to reduce developing PAHs and HCAs in your grilling:
- Keep your grill clean to reduce flare ups and smoke.
- Trim excess fat from meats.
- Don’t overcook—the charred bits are full of PAHs.
- Marinades add extra flavor and form a barrier between the meat and heat to reduce HCAs and PAHs. A marinade of olive oil and/or citrus juice can reduce their formation by as much as 90 percent while increasing tenderness.
- Remove excess marinade to reduce flare ups that will undo its protective benefits.
- Herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage will reduce HCA development according to the Food Safety Consortium of Kansas State University.
Marinated Chicken Breasts:
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar, like cider, balsamic, or red wine
- 2 to 3 teaspoons dried herbs, like thyme, oregano, rosemary, or crumbled bay leaf
- 1 to 2 tablespoons mustard, whole grain or Dijon
- 1 to 2 teaspoon garlic or onion powder, optional
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, each about 6 ounces
Put the vinegar, herbs, mustard, powders (if using) and oil in a large re-sealable plastic bag. Close the bag and shake to combine all the ingredients. Open the bag, drop in the chicken breast in the bag. Close and shake the bag to coat evenly. Freeze for up to 2 weeks.
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, under cold, running water or in the microwave at 30 percent power for one minute at a time.
Heat a grill or grill pan. When the grill is hot, place the chicken on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. You can also bake the thawed chicken in a 375 degree F oven for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
Tick Tick Tick: Take the time to prevent Lyme disease
Pennsylvania is among the top ten states for annual recorded cases of Lyme disease, an illness that can progress to debilitating brain, joint and heart conditions. Lyme disease is spread by the black legged tick, or “deer tick”— a parasite the size of a sesame seed. Perching on the tips of grasses and leaves along wooded trails and brushy areas seeking mammal heat and an easy ride, these ticks are difficult to see. Their favorite hosts are deer and mice, but they are known to choose human hosts, too. Lyme disease symptoms can begin within days or weeks of infection from the tick’s bite.
“The treatment for Lyme disease requires several doses of antibiotics,” says Sheila Koskey, RN, CIC, director of Infection Prevention and Control at Susquehanna Health. “The best approach is to prevent Lyme disease by avoiding exposure to the deer tick.”
When working or playing in areas that could have ticks, dress defensively.
(BONUS – these precautions can help protect you from mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile Virus and prevent sunburn.)
- Wear a light colored, wide-brimmed hat
- Wear light colored, long sleeve tops and full-length bottoms (so ticks can be seen)
- Tuck pants into shoes
- Use DEET, an insect repellent, applied to pant legs and exposed areas of the body
Following time outdoors, shower to wash away ticks that are not attached. Check your hair, nape of neck, armpits, legs, arms and groin area for ticks.
If you find a tick that has begun burrowing, wear gloves while carefully removing the tick with slow and steady traction using forceps or tweezers. It is important to gently remove all parts, even imbedded parts, then wash the site carefully and alert your physician to the possibility of exposure.
Initial symptoms of Lyme disease are flu-like – nausea, sore throat, fever and headache. Some, but not all people with Lyme disease develop a bullseye-like rash. If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately. A blood test can typically confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Keep Skin Safe this Summer
Your greatest risk for sun damage that can lead to skin cancer is during the summer. That’s when the sun is closest to the Earth, and you’re wearing less clothing outdoors to stay cool.
“There are other risks for skin cancer, including genetics, but intentional excessive UV exposure is the easiest risk factor to modify,” says Dr. Karen Brady of Susquehanna Health Dermatology. “Protect yourself by skipping the tanning beds and by avoiding the sun’s rays especially when they are strongest from 10 am-3 pm.”
When outdoors wear sunscreen, long sleeves and pants (some clothing is manufactured to provide UV protection) and use shading devices like wide brimmed hats and umbrellas.
Dr. Brady says forget about the mythical protective base tan. There is no evidence that an early tan protects against harmful burns later in the summer. In fact, tanning indicates that damage has occurred.
To detect skin cancer at its earliest stages, conduct thorough evaluations of your skin (and your children’s skin).
“An easy rule to remember is ‘check your birthday suit on your birthday,’” says Dr. Brady. “If you have already been diagnosed with skin cancer, atypical moles or have a family history of melanoma—then check more frequently.”
Have a concern about your skin? Call Susquehanna Health Dermatology at (570) 320-7880.
Slather on Sunscreen
Choose a sunscreen that provides both SPF and UV protection. The higher the number, the greater the protection! The best SPF for outdoor use is SPF 30. SPF 15 is found in many facial moisturizers which is good for daily use, but needs a boost if you plan to be out in the sun.
Apply generously! Use two shot glasses of lotion per application every two to three hours. Studies show you should reapply every hour if you’re swimming or exercising.
Chemical sunscreens must be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time to bind to the skin. Sunscreens containing titanium and zinc oxide provide more immediate protection.
The ABCD’s of Skin Cancer
If you notice a sudden or continuous change in the appearance of a mole, you should see your doctor. These A, B, C and D’s from the American Melanoma Society can help you evaluate your skin:
A—asymmetry: one side of a mole or dark spot looks different from the other side
B—border: irregular instead of being circular or oval, the mole has a jagged edge, notch or blur
C—color: look for uneven color or shades of brown, tan, black, pink or blue
D—diameter: a diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
You should also alert your doctor about:
- appearance of a new bump or nodule
- color spreads into surrounding skin
- redness or swelling beyond the mole
- any symptomatic mole