The World's Healthiest Foods

What are the problems with grilling food on high heat?

There are documented health risks associated with the char-broiling and gas grilling of foods. In general, these risks are associated with the formation

of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Most HCAs are well documented carcinogens, and keeping their levels to a minimum in your diet can decrease your cancer risk.

HCAs form most easily at high temperatures. Under 325F, the formation of these compounds is very low. As temperatures increase above 400F, the formation of HCAs can increase by 700%-1000%. Gas and charcoal grilling often (but not always) involve higher temperatures.

The longer a food is exposed to high heat, the greater the HCA formation. When a food like a hamburger is grilled for 10 minutes versus 6 minutes, for example, the HCA levels in the hamburger may increase by 25-30%.

Meat, fish and poultry are more likely to give rise to HCA formation because HCA formation requires the presence of amino acids (from protein) as well as the nitrogen-containing substances, creatine or creatinine. Both of these substances are plentiful in most animal foods. Since most of the research on HCAs has been done on meat, it is uncertain that the grilling of vegetables and fruits may have the same level of outcomes, notably because some of the phytonutrients found in vegetables, such as the sulforaphane in broccoli, have been found to reduce the carcinogenic effect of the HCAs in research studies.