Updated 27 October 2015

Braaiing tips to cut colon cancer risk

Use less red meat, marinate and precook indoors, nutrition expert advises.


Simple changes to your backyard braai routine could help reduce your colon cancer risk, an expert says.

"Research now shows that diets high in red and processed meat increase risk for colon cancer," Alice Bender, a registered dietitian at the American Institute for Cancer Research, said. "And braaiing meat - red or white - forms potent cancer-causing substances. But by keeping five simple steps in mind, it's possible to make this summer's backyard grilling both healthier and more flavourful."

The type of meat you put on the braai is as important as how you braai it. Diets high in beef, pork and lamb are linked to increased risk for colon cancer, as are processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages. Instead of sticking with steak, burgers and franks, use spices, herbs, hot peppers and sauces to get creative with fish and chicken, Bender suggested.

Read: Red meat ups death risk

Benefits of marinating meat

Be sure to marinate before you braai. Research has shown that marinating meat, poultry and fish for at least 30 minutes before putting it on the braai can reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are formed when cooking with high heat. Use a mixture of vinegar, herbs, spices and lemon juice or wine.

Other potentially cancer-causing substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are deposited onto meat by smoke during braaiing. Reduce the amount of time that meat spends on the braai by first partially cooking it in a microwave, oven or stove. Be sure to put the partially cooked meat on the preheated braai immediately in order to keep it safe from microbes that can cause illness, Bender said.

Read: Can your braai cause cancer?

Cutting off the fat

Cook meat over a low flame to reduce the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Reduce flare-ups by keeping fat and juices out of the fire. Cut visible fat off the meat, move coals to the side of the braai and cook your meat in the centre of the braai. Cut off any charred portions of meat before serving.

Your menus should include vegetables and fruits, which contain anti-cancer compounds. Put thick slices of onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers or tomatoes on the braai or in a braai basket. Corn on the cob is another good choice for braaiing, which brings out the sweetness in vegetables, Bender said.

Read more:

Too much biltong, sausage and bacon causes cancer

Genetic link between colon cancer and processed meats

Herbs protect meat on the braai


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