Q. What's the healthiest way to grill?

A. You may have heard some slightly scary reports of grilled meats being linked with cancer and other health risks. For instance, researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill recently found that breast cancer risk rises in postmenopausal women who eat lots of grilled meats but skimp on veggies.

Ongoing research is just part of a bigger picture—and not enough to convince me to ditch this easy, fast, and generally healthy cooking method. The truth is that you can drastically reduce any potential risks by following a few simple grilling tips.

1. Lower the flame. Grilling meat, poultry, or fish at high heats can create potential carcinogens called HCAs, or heterocyclic amines, as well as toxins called AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. Some research shows that these AGEs can wreak havoc with insulin levels, increase inflammation, and even contribute to the risk of Alzheimer's disease—probably a little bit more than you were looking for from a summer meal! (Current Alzheimer Research, 2004, vol. 1, no. 1)

2. Don't forget the marinade. Marinades that include fruit juices (such as lemon or orange juice) reduce the formation of HCAs, says James Rouse, ND, a Colorado-based naturopath and nutrition expert.

3. Learn to love veggie, tofu, and fruit kabobs. Plant-based foods don't suffer the same chemical reactions when grilled, so they don't carry any health risks. What's more, the results can be delicious: try Grilled Chicken with Charred Tomatoes and Broccoli, Grilled Salmon with Chili-Lime Sauce, Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Japanese Eggplant and Jamaican Jerk Tempeh or go to the recipe search page and enter "grill."


This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, author of the The Soy Sensation (McGraw-Hill, 2002) and The Green Tea Book (Avery, 1998).