It's that time again when we gather around a fire with family and friends while sharing a superb feast — prime time for grilling, right.
Almost everyone claims that eating braaied meat increases your risk of developing cancer.
Could it be true? It's every braai-loving Zimbabwean's worst nightmare — the idea that eating meat could increase their risk of developing cancer.
What does science really say?
Research shows that meat cooked at high temperatures releases chemicals that increase the risk of cancer.
These include HCA and PHA which are formed during cooking of muscle meats such as beef, pork, chicken, fowl and fish — due to a reaction between amino acids and creatinine at high temperatures.
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Associated cancers are colon, prostate, breast, pancreatic and stomach cancer.
Least you feel science threatens everything we enjoy, I have a bit of good news.
Eating meat once in a while won’t cause cancer. It is the regular and repeated exposure over a long period that increases the risk.
The emphasis rather is not to eat excessive amounts particularly over a long period, as meat is a valuable source of nutrients such as protein, zinc, iron and vitamin B12, so simply put “moderation is key”.
Healthy braai tips
Knowledge is power and now that you know the risks that are involved, here is some good news with surprisingly exciting and practical tips on how to make your braai healthier.
Tip 1: Avoid processed meats
Skip the hot dogs, sausages and bacon. They taste good but cancer-forming substances form when these meats are preserved.
They contain monosodium glutamate, preservatives, artificial flavourants and colorants that may increase the risk of cancer.
Eat less of the processed meats and choose meats from local butcheries such as chicken, fish, beef, pork that are uncured.
Tip 2: Keep the flames at bay
You can opt to braai with water to regulate heat so that you do not burn the meat
Tip 3: Cut back on grill time
Cooking for a long time leads to the formation of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). It's important to reduce braaing time by employing the following methods :
Choose meat that cooks fast such as fish
Cut down your cooking meat time. Rare to medium is recommended for best.
It’s a good idea to choose smaller cuts of meat such as kebabs or cut ting strips.
Tip 4 : Grill your vegetables
You can still enjoy that smoky flavour you love and reduce cancer risk by braaing fruits and vegetables.
They do not contain harmful chemicals even when cooked at high temperatures.Examples include
Another alternative is to pair your meat with a rich antioxidant salad combat.
My key advice, always remember to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables each day throughout the festive season and beyond.
Tip 5: Use thin marinade
Marinate meat in beer — for about four to six hours.
It has been found to significantly lower the cancer-causing agents that develop.
Another alternative is to marinate meat in a thin mixture of vinegar, oil and spices.
Other ingredients that have been shown to be effective are olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider, mustard, garlic, black pepper, oregano and rosemary .
Always avoid thick sugary marinades that may cause charring of meat which makes it unhealthy to eat .
Tip 6: Trim off fat
Remove any excess fat especially on meat such as pork.
It reduces the amount of cancer-causing substances produced, smoke from the braai caused by fat and juices hitting the hot coal contains additional harmful chemicals that can cause cancer.
Therefore, remove any excess fat.You can also use a tong instead of a fork which pierces the meat, causing the fat juices to drip.
Tip 7: Create a barrier
Don’t allow the juices to spill and produce a harmful smoke and cut back on flame flare ups, line up your grill with aluminium foil or cook on cedar planks.
Take good care of your gut, eat healthy and stay fit. Talk Cancer Zim wishes you a Merry Christmas and a healthy 2023.