Recent news linking grilled meat to cancer may make you leery about firing up the barbecue this summer. But there are simple ways to stay healthy while still enjoying a backyard cookout.

Cut the fat. 

When the fat from beef, pork, poultry, fish, and processed meats like bacon and sausage drips and burns on the grill, it creates smoke that contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This chemical has been linked to skin, lung, bladder, and stomach cancers. Minimize your risk of PAHs by trimming fat from meat before grilling, and lining the grill with foil to catch the dripping fat before it hits the heat source and creates smoke.

For some, removing the fat seems to mean that the meat isn’t as flavorful. To combat that, how about an all-purpose dry rub recipe.

All Purpose Dry Rub



Add all ingredients together in a sealable container. Seal container and shake to mix. Cover and rub spice blend deeply into the meat. Let meat sit for 15 to 20 minutes before grilling.

Lower the Heat  

When the protein in meat, poultry, and fish is exposed to high heat and open flames, it can create another carcinogen called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). One of the best ways to limit HCAs is to cook your meat rare to medium rare, at a lower temperature. Some research shows that well-done meat contains more than triple the HCAs than medium-rare meat.

Grill Outside the Box

A 2012 study found that HCA levels vary depending on the meat. Grilled or fried bacon has the highest levels, followed by pork, beef, and chicken. Fish have minimal HCAs, and fruits and vegetables have none.

So make sure to toss some corn, portabella mushrooms, peppers, onions, eggplant cutlets, or other veggies on the grill. And grilled pineapple or stone fruit like peaches and plums make a tasty and healthy dessert. In fact, here’s an easy recipe featuring portabella mushrooms.

3 Ingredient Grilled Portabella Mushrooms



Brush olive oil on the portabello mushrooms then sprinkle with lemon pepper, to taste. Grill over indirect heat for 8 to 10 minutes per side. Use as a side or add to a bun with condiments and other veggies for a tasty vegetarian burger. Serves 8.

Spice it up with Marinade

Research shows that marinating meat in a thin, vinegar-based sauce without sugar for as little as 30 minutes substantially reduces the formation of HCAs—perhaps because of the acids and antioxidants in the marinade.

 One study found that a teriyaki marinade cut HCAs by 67 percent, and a garlic-turmeric marinade lowered them by 50 percent. Basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme also reduced HCAs. 

But stay away from commercial barbecue sauces. The sugar in these sauces combine with amino acids in the meat to produce HCAs. Read below for a quick and easy garlic-rosemary marinade recipe.

Quick Garlic and Rosemary Marinade


  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil


Mix all the ingredients in a plastic, zipper bag, then add meat, tofu or even veggies to the bag. Squeeze the bag around the ingredients to make sure that all the surfaces are coated. Remove as much air as possible before sealing bag.

Leave marinating in your refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours. Be sure to flip the bag halfway through. Once marinated, grill or broil the ingredients according to your preference.

Follow these tips and you can enjoy healthy, safe cookouts this summer and throughout the year.

If you love to cook and come up with your own creations, check out iHerb’s variety of Spices and Seasonings and our Sauces and Marinades.