Do You Know Nutrition?: Toxicity in grilled meats

July 5, 2011 at 2:05 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

We enjoy barbecuing, but I recently read an article about the toxicity that can be created in meats. I am not sure that I understand exactly what happens, so I would appreciate it if you could explain.

Muscle meat including red meat, fish and poultry naturally contain amino acids, sugars and a protein called creatinine. Cooking, especially under high temperatures, converts these compounds into heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to cancer in human and animal studies, according to the American Cancer Society.

The formation of HCA and PAH varies with meat type, cooking method and "doneness" level (i.e. rare, medium or well done). Whatever the type of meat, meats cooked at high temperatures, that is above 300 degrees, or that are cooked for a long time, tend to form more HCAs.

For example, well done, grilled or barbecued steak, all have high concentrations of HCA. Cooking methods that expose meat to smoke or charring, known as carbonization, contribute to PAH formation, according to the National Institute of Cancer. At the present time, no Federal guidelines address consumption levels of HCAs or PAH formed in meat.

I recommend barbecuing only occasionally, using very lean meat, trimming off all of the fat and cooking on as low of heat that is still safe.

Can you please tell me what the difference is between apple juice and apple cider?

Apple juice is the juice of the fruit only, whereas apple cider is the whole apple-skin, seeds and all, which gives it the fuller body and deeper color. Apple juice is pasteurized, but apple cider is not. Calorie for calorie, they are equal although the cider may contain a bit more pulp.

Is it true that the dye used to stamp the grade on meat is edible? I always cut it off.

For many years, the dye meat inspectors used to stamp meat was made from the grape residue that settled on the bottom on wine casks.

However, the United States now uses a secret United States Department of Agriculture approved formula. When I contacted the USDA, I was told, and I quote, "It is a food-grade, vegetable dye. The exact formula is proprietary/owned by the maker of the dye." My recommendation, because I never got an answer, is continue to remove the stamp when you come across it.

The next free nutrition class will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday. Call Organic Emporium at 361-576-2100, to book your seat.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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