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For many Canadians, barbecuing is a summertime ritual. The art and flare of this cooking technique is culturally entrenched and can be a healthier way to prepare food.
But those sought-after grill marks on burgers and steaks are actually signs that a chemical reaction has taken place and, when eaten in excess, can contribute to life-threatening disease.
"When foods are charred and smoked at high temperatures, changes in the chemical structure of inherent fats, proteins and sugars occurs, creating toxic compounds," says Nishta Saxena, a Clinical Dietitian in the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
"Carcinogenic substances including heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are some of the toxic compounds created that can lead to pancreatic cancer and other diseases." According to Nishta, the key to healthy barbecuing is avoiding charring and direct contact between the food and flame. Also, try to balance the frequency of barbecued meals with other cooking techniques, including baking and steaming.
To keep your barbecue lit, but not compromise your health, try these tips at home: