With summer grilling season around the corner, millions will be wolfing down processed meats cooked to a black crisp. It’s hardly surprising that these “foods,” like many others when exposed to high heat, give rise to thousands of one or more health-threatening carcinogens linked to various cancers, kidney and heart disease, and more. Considering that most nutritional content is also lost in the cooking process, most foods cooked by frying, grilling, and other lengthy or high-heat processes are definitely detrimental to human health.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) – The browning of barbequed meats or other foods actually indicates the formation of AGEs, which are made when sugars and amino acids combine in the body. Also produced in the body after excess consumption of sugar, these free radicals accelerate aging of the skin, inhibit the immune system, and hasten the progression of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and kidney, eye and nerve diseases.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) – Cooking meat or eggs also results in the production of HCAs. Linked to breast, colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers; HCAs are an NIH-recognized cancer-causing agent. HCAs are produced from the reaction of the amino acids creatine and creatinine (found in animal products) with free amino acids and sugars in the body.
Acrylamide – Declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” Acrylamide is found in high-carbohydrate foods cooked at as low as 149 degrees Farenheit, including potato chips, french fries, and baked or fried salty snacks. The amino acid asparagine, especially high in potatoes, reacts with naturally-occurring sugars to form the substance. The FDA found that Acrylamide caused nerve damage in humans at high doses.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – When foods are heated above 392 degrees Farenheit, carbon-containing compounds that are incompletely burned become the source of PAHs. These mutagens damage DNA and are known progenitors of skin, lung and genitourinary cancers. PAHs are found in grilled and charred fish, meat and poultry, as well as toasted grains and any food fried in oil.
To avoid the high health cost of regularly consuming these carcinogens, prefer brief cooking over prolonged cooking. Steaming produces the least number of carcinogenic compounds while preserving more of the nutritional content of foods; boiling can be considered as a second choice. Eating raw foods is generally the safest and among the most nutritious ways to nourish oneself.
Health-e-Solutions comment: The diabetic-alkaline lifestyle encourages the use of very low-glycemic foods and eating as much raw food as you can. Most of the foods with the greatest risk are foods we avoid or minimize: we minimize animal products and eliminate foods with high carbohydrate content. Cooking methods must be considered for foods requiring heat for preparation. Dehydration was not mentioned in this article, but it would be a an excellent alternative to high heat.
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