There’s little to beat a braai! Steak, chicken wings and boerewors are sizzling favourites. But eating meat, especially red meat, has got bad press as experts have linked it to certain types of cancer. ‘Meat is a good source of protein and essential micronutrients, like iron, zinc, vitamin B6, B12 and thiamine,’ says Joburg dietitian Tammy Wolhunter. The good news is you can reap the nutritional benefits of meat and enjoy your summer braai if you follow these basic rules.
That juicy strip of fat on your steak not only adds to your waistline but can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. The saturated fatty acids in red meat, also known as bad fats, are the real demons. The more saturated fat you eat, the more pre-cancerous polyps may occur in your colon. Saturated fats may also increase your risk of breast cancer.
What To Do Even a lean fillet steak contains 25% fat. Cut off all visible fat or opt for less fatty meats, such as chicken or fish.
A study from the University of South Carolina found that women who ate grilled, braaied or smoked meat, including white meat (like chicken), more than twice a week had a 47% increased risk of developing breast cancer. Those who skimped on their veggies and fruit (which are known to have cancer-protecting properties) had a 74% increased risk.
What To Do Take control of your portion sizes by keeping your meat portions to 100-150g a meal. This is equivalent to one lamb chop, two slices of roast beef or lamb, or three slices of ham.
If you’re a forgetful griller, you’re probably used to slightly charred pieces of meat. Be careful of overdoing your braais. ‘Charred meat or meat cooked at high temperatures cause heterocyclic mines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) compounds,’ cautions Dr Carl Albrecht, head research officer at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).
What To Do Avoid cooking methods such as frying, braaing, and smoking. Opt for braising, roasting, stewing, boiling, stir-frying, poaching, steaming or baking in foil instead.
‘The longer meat is cooked, the more HCAs and PAHs are formed,’ comments Wolhunter. In other words, there’s more time for PAHs to reach the surface of your meat and more HCAs are formed as the meat increases in temperature.
What To Do Use a microwave to precook your meat before grilling or braaing. According to the National Cancer Institute in the US, turning your meat continuously also helps reduce the HCAs and PAHs levels.
Reseachers for a study in the British Journal of Cancer surveyed over 61 000 people and looked at 20 different types of cancer. They found that vegetarians are 12% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. ‘Diet of fresh fruit and vegetables will help to reduce your cancer risk,’ explains Joburg dietitian Anne Till.
What To Do Include a variety of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables in your diet . This reduces the amount of fat you absorb in your gut and ups your antioxidant intake.