Red meat — which means beef, pork, and lamb — does have its benefits. It's high in protein and iron. But it comes with a price tag. Red meat has been strongly linked to colorectal cancer, for one. “When red meat is exposed to high temps — frying, broiling, grilling — there's a chemical reaction that forms heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, which are known carcinogens,” explains Ann G. Kulze, MD, author of Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet (Top Ten Wellness and Fitness, 2004). Another carcinogen lurks in your steak's charred crust: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons result when the fat renders out and hits flame or smoke. “It's a hazardous fat-fire reaction,” says Kulze. If you just can't give up red meat, she recommends marinating and precooking it for two minutes in the microwave, trimming as much fat prior to grilling, and shaving off the charred bits afterward.

While you don't need to completely eschew the steaks and burgers (eating less than 18 ounces of red meat weekly is not associated with an increase in cancer risk), the AICR suggests eliminating nitrite-preserved processed meats altogether — any amount of which increases your risk of cancer. That means hot dogs, salami, ham, bacon, and sausage are out. “When you eat processed meat, the bacteria in your GI tract transform the nitrites into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens,” says Kulze.

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