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The American Institute for Cancer Research warns that food, especially grilled meat, poultry, and fish may contain compounds that have been tied to cancer. Learn how you can use olive oil to reduce the risks. 


According to the AICR, charring and cooking meat, poultry and fish under high heat causes compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form. These substances have shown the ability to damage our DNA in ways that make cancer more likely. However, marinating your food for at least 30 minutes can reduce the formation of HCAs. Many grilling experts, including Weber grills, recommend marinating with olive oil. Here is a great all-purpose grill marinade recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of acid such as lemon juice or vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • Optional - herbs, spices, Worcestershire or hot sauce, Dijon mustard, soy sauce or fish sauce

Mix all of the ingredients until they are emulsified. Pour over meat or vegetables and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the proportions to fit your needs. You will need 1/2 cup of marinade for each pound of meat.  More marinade recipes are available here.

According to the New York Times, , marinating may help reduce the formation of HCAs because the oil acts as a barrier between the meat and the heat.  We know that olive oil is the best choice because it is the most stable liquid cooking fat due to its high oxidative stability. Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants which protect it from breaking down and also protect the meat and vegetables being grilled. 

Nigel Brockton, vice president of research at the American Institute for Cancer Research, recommends grilling with ingredients that contain phenolic compounds because “it seems they quench the formation of the potentially carcinogenic compounds because of the antioxidant properties of those ingredients.”  Extra virgin olive oil is a source of at least 30 phenolic compounds. including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol. The phenols in other cooking oils are destroyed during the refining process. Extra virgin olive oil is not refined and retains the healthy phenols that are found in olives.

Another way to reduce your cancer risk is to eat more vegetables. HCAs are not formed when grilling vegetables, even if they are charred. Toss your vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper before placing on the grill.  You can even grill potatoes for a side dish that is even better than french fries!

  • 4 large potatoes cut into wedges, or smaller fingerling potatoes cut in half
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder (optional)

Add the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then stir in the olive oil. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Heat the grill to medium and place the potatoes on the grill grates. Flip once dark grill marks have formed.

For more tips on how to reduce the risk of cancer with grilling, click here.


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