Marinating meat in antioxidant-rich spice blends can reduce the risk of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) forming by more than 80 percent.
"If you are concerned about carcinogens, marinating a product, and this would be any kind of muscle food product, is a good way to reduce the formation of HCAs dramatically," said study author J. Scott Smith, a professor of food science at Kansas State University. His research was published in the current issue of the Journal of Food Science. "The marinades would have to be rich in spices," Smith added.
And although the researchers didn't specifically check this, Smith suspects that the antioxidants found in red wine and in many fruits and vegetables might also do the trick.
HCAs are "suspected" human carcinogens produced in muscle foods that have been cooked at high temperatures. HCAs are created when heat acts on amino acids and creatinine in animal muscle.
How the research was done
Braaiing produces the most HCAs, followed by pan-frying and broiling. Baking, poaching, stir-frying and stewing produce the least HCAs.
The researchers tested three different commercial marinade blends (Caribbean, Southwest and herb), purchased from a local grocery store, on fresh eye of round beef steaks.
The steaks were marinated for one hour (turning several times) in one of the blends, then cooked in a skillet at 204 degrees Celcius for five minutes on each side.
Steaks marinated in the Caribbean blend had an 88 percent decrease in HCA levels. The herb blend reduced HCAs by 72 percent, while the Southwest blend reduced levels by 57 percent.
All the marinade blends contained two or more spices from the mint family, which are rich in the antioxidants rosmarinic acid, carnosol and carnosic acid. The marinades contained maltodextrin and/or modified starch ingredients or salt that could have played a role in reducing HCA production due to water retention, the authors stated.
The steaks were cooked on an electric skillet, but the results could probably be extrapolated to outside braaiing as well. "Actually, a braai runs at higher temp, so the effect probably would be more dramatic," Smith said. – (EurekAlert, August 2008)
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